Ronaldo goes from prolific to profligate for Portugal
So prolific at club level, the skipper's inability to spark Portugal threatens to stain his legacy
Cristiano Ronaldo still considers himself to be "The Man" of world football.
That narcissism, in spite of Lionel Messi's continued dominance of the never-ending contest between the pair, drives on a player defined by his photogenic appearance, box-office persona and a club honour roll that is the envy of so many other world-class footballers.
Beneath that facade, however, are cracks that even his cocksure superficiality fails to mask.
At Euro 2016, Portugal's talisman continues to be exposed as little more than a mere mortal.
It was another of those occasions as his country eked out a second frustrating Group F stalemate, this time against Austria yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Ronaldo's enduring nightmare of profligacy is becoming a recurring theme at the Finals, just as it has proved for Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the similarly misfiring captains of England and Sweden, respectively.
FIGO V RONALDO
His latest ordeal arrived on what should have been a joyous encounter as he finally overtook Luis Figo as the country's all-time appearance holder. But therein lies the difference between the wing wizards of Real Madrid past and present.
Figo inspired both club and country to elevate themselves to the highest levels - not unlike Eusebio all those years ago - while Ronaldo's on-field quest for personal gratification has hindered as he flatters to deceive for Portugal.
Relatively menial opposition, in the form of Iceland and Austria, had made the task of affirming his status as Portugal's absolute footballing leader a mere formality.
Yet, he has continued to toil as though he is doing battle with the likes of Barcelona or France.
Ronaldo is no stranger to the big stage; 21 days before floundering at the Parc des Princes, he had triumphantly flexed his pectoral muscles after scoring the decisive penalty in the Champions League final shoot-out win over Atletico Madrid.
But, when the occasion dictates for Portugal, he has often gone missing.
Failing to dispatch from 12 yards against Austria, just three weeks after that euphoria in Milan's San Siro, was symptomatic of the flaws which continue to cast a shadow over his sceptre.
He has broken more records than Simon Cowell, most recently having more attempts on goal (20) than any other competing nation at Euro 2016, but it counts for little in the grander scheme.
It has become a recurring theme in his international backstory, with performances in the Euro 2004 final against eventual winners Greece and Germany in the World Cup, a decade later, unlikely to prominently feature in his career's show reel, if at all.
Desperately bidding to again become the show-stopper that rose to prominence during his formative years at Manchester United and continued at the Santiago Bernabeu showed just why Ronaldo is incapable of going it alone for Portugal.
NANI V BENZEMA
That is partly attributable to the paucity of his peers.
Luis Nani and Joao Moutinho are not in the same league as Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, Ronaldo's teammates at Real.
With a collective 56 goals scored by the starting line-up in Paris compared to the 58 accrued by the 31-year-old in his own right, it is little wonder Portugal face a struggle to make it out of Group F.
True to form, Ronaldo will refuse to acknowledge his own failings in that predicament for Fernando Santos' side.
One of the world's greatest players has already turned the ire for his embarrassment on everyone other than himself.
Ronaldo: I will bounce back
ALWAYS TIME FOR A WEFIE: Ronaldo posing with a pitch invader after the game. PHOTO: REUTERS
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo promised to bounce back from missing a penalty and the chance to break another goalscoring record at Euro 2016.
Ronaldo hit the post from the spot with 11 minutes left in a 0-0 draw with Austria yesterday morning (Singapore time), while aiming to become the first player to score in four European Championships.
Portugal now need to beat Hungary in their final Group F match on Wednesday to progress to the knockout stage.
"I missed some chances - a penalty and some other chances, but that's part of football," said Ronaldo
"We need to continue to believe.The players, we need to think that it's still possible; if we win, we qualify.
"And also the Portuguese people, the fans who love Portugal, they also have to believe in it.
"The bad won't last forever, so we need to believe that things will go better."
Ronaldo has now missed 19 penalties in his storied career on another frustrating night in front of goal, after a 1-1 draw with Iceland in Portugal's opening game.
The Real Madrid star slotted the best chance of the first half wide and also saw a goal ruled out for offside, as Portugal couldn't turn their possession into goals.
The 31-year-old, Portugal's all-time top scorer with 59 international goals, broke Portuguese legend Luis Figo's appearances record by winning his 128th cap, but he could not end it on a winning note.
STRIKE A POSE
Despite his disappointment, Ronaldo managed to leave one happy fan crying tears of joy after taking a wefie with the three-time World Player of the Year.
After sneaking past the Parc des Princes security to get on the pitch, Ronaldo waited while the lucky spectator juggled with his phone to take the snap as security guards stood and watched.
Portugal coach Fernado Santos declined to discuss Ronaldo's performance, but went on to criticise Ricardo Quaresma, who started against Austria after impressing as a substitute in the 1-1 draw with Iceland.
"Quaresma was okay but he was too close to the sideline," Santos said of the winger, who started on the right and was later replaced after 71 minutes with Joao Mario.
"At that time, I thought we needed to bring the game more into the centre," said Santos after Portugal failed to score for the first time in a competitive fixture under his tenure.
"Andre Gomes on the other side was doing it properly, giving space for (left back) Raphael Guerreiro to run along the line. Quaresma started being a little slower."
Despite failing to score from 23 goal attempts, compared to Austria's three, Santos believes his side are just one performance away from clicking into gear.
He said: "We have to build on the positives and put it all together in the next game. This is our first 'final' of the Euros."
Austria are without a goal in Group F and have one point but could still qualify if they beat Iceland, who have two points.
- Wire Services.