Doha, Qatar — He was at the height of his power Cristiano Ronaldo‘s part-vibe, part-message.
His “calma, u estou aquiBoasting (“Relax, I’m here.”) would naturally happen with Real Madrid from 2012. be a meme, And through the years, it usually worked. six minutes into Sunday’s second half – when he tried to channel it world Cup quarter final match against Morocco with and Portugal One goal down — coach Fernando Santos finally sent him off.
As the clock ticked down at Al Thumama Stadium and the Moroccan roar grew louder, so did bruno fernandes angrily pulled off his shirt like he was about to hulksmash, even pepe waved his hands pleadingly with the referee, even joao felix Through his arms in the air, Ronaldo seemed to exude an almost Zen-like calmness even as Portugal’s attacks descended into chaos.
Chance – whether to set up a teammate or beat the Moroccan goalkeeper yassin bounou — you have to come. It will flow his way and he will seize the moment. Except that when the board lit up showing eight minutes of injury time, his first contact was crisp but not foul. And his shot was blocked by Bouno, and Morocco ran out the clock for the win. 1-0,
For a man who has been the center of attention for the past twenty years, his last World Cup performance was underwhelming. There was no shouting, no hysteria. Instead, there was a quiet, calm professionalism that, once you break away from the hype, underlies much of his career.
The game ended amid a carnage of injuries and substitutions. As Santos sent out more and more attacking players, his existing attackers had to withdraw: Fernandes ended up at right-back, Bernardo Silva On holding the midfielder. But it is also silly to talk about formation in the final minutes of a World Cup knockout game, when one team has a lead.
The script is familiar. Morocco retreated in a thick red mass covering Ronaldo, Ricardo Horta and Felix, with azzdeen aunahi And sofian amarbatNorth Africa’s answer to Castor and Pollux (and soon to be legendary), doing everything from patrolling the edge of the box to cueing the press after every clearance.
Craig Burley has praised Morocco’s performance and resilience as they became the first African team to make it to a World Cup semi-final.
The game changes to another game. One team tries to punch, will and scrape the ball through the clump of humans in the net (if they’re lucky, there’s a deflection or the referee’s whistle to help). The other prays that each clearance leads to a counterattack, often a solo forward run against a couple of defenders (one of them 40-year-old Pepe).
Ronaldo was in the middle of it all. It might have been quiet outside – from high up in the media tribune you can never be sure – maybe inside the dial had been turned to 11. But to his teammates and onlookers, he looked confident and poised. He had come here many times. With 196 international caps, nearly a thousand games at club level, finals, Ballons d’Or, league titles… He knew his teammates were watching him, even if his coach was not.
At least not in the beginning, not in this game, not in the last game. But it was still his moment. All he had to do was wait for the door to open and walk through it. Except never did. The last chance fell to Pepe – a disjointed header fired away from the post – he didn’t have it. And, somehow it ended.
The whistle blew and off he went, the center circle and the players gazing forward towards the tunnel, breaking the jump just twice. once, when Achraf Dariwho came on as a replacement for the injured Moroccan defender Romain Sais, Stopped to console him and put his arm around him, which Ronaldo nodded and greeted with a half-smile. and again when a pitch invader breached the perimeter and ran towards him, only to be brought to bear by an alert security guard.
Ronaldo was swallowed up by the tunnel and was gone. Got to thinking what could have happened, if he had played from the first minute. Went to consider how long he wants to make this game his life, as no one lives under a rock, he is now unattached at club level and can play at whatever club he wants (and wants him) is free to join. In 1994, cameroonRoger Milla scored his last World Cup goal at the age of 42, which is older than Ronaldo in 2026. So yes, never say never.
But surprisingly in the cold air at Al Tummah, it felt like the curtain had lifted on his World Cup career. Five World Cups, book-ended by Portugal’s best performance with them: the semi-finals in 2006 and now the quarter-finals. Twenty-two appearances, eight goals scored, few regrets (no more than a thigh injury in 2014) and many big moments (like the penalty that sent Portugal past) england and in the semi-finals in 2006, then The famous “Rooney Wink” And Veer Hattrick Against spain in 2018).
And, perhaps, the sense of loss that great people always have about themselves: that with fewer injuries and better timing they might have done even more. This may be the final chapter of the World Cup, but we have yet to reach the end of the book. We will see him again, certainly at club level, maybe with Portugal. But 2022 will be known as Ronaldo annus horribilis, Good thing 2023 is only three weeks away.