World Cup | Portugal is still in the grip of Cristiano Ronaldo

Rarely, including when they were higher in the hierarchy of favorites, had Portugal awaited the kick-off of their first World Cup match with such anticipation. It’s not that the Seleção are filled with overflowing confidence – though – but the last few days have proved particularly revealing. The earthquake of Cristiano Ronaldo’s interview and his breach of contract with Manchester United have weighed down the atmosphere around a group that frankly did not need that to feel the weight of the “Capitão”.

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Since the workforce of Fernando Santos met, none of the players invited to the press conference has escaped the string of questions relating to CR7. And each of their actions has been the subject of a sociological analysis.

First there was the real-fake icy handshake between Bruno Fernandes and his boss, which was really nothing more than a joke. Then a gesture of humor again involving the fivefold Ballon d’Or, this time with João Cancelo, after the side lost a duel with João Félix.

Accustomed to being in the shadows

The life of a group, in short. “The group is shielded and uniteda Ronaldo assured in front of the press, at the beginning of the week. I’m sure that [son interview] will not affect concentration in the locker roomAnd Fernando Santos, the star’s first warrant officer, added: “We are used to four or five questions about Ronaldo being asked during press conferences.”

Nevertheless, an obvious annoyance, seen in Bernardo Silva or Bruno Fernandes, also seemed to translate something else. Maybe it’s just contextual. Perhaps it is no coincidence either that it is precisely these two players, while their influence on the game of the selection grows as that of the man with 181 capes reduced. As if his omnipotence were becoming less acceptable, now that he is no longer quite beyond reproach on the pitch.

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The two midfielders and all the others, who make up a generation”with enormous potential“, by Cristiano’s admission, have already demonstrated that they can also manage without him. It was a week ago against Nigeria (4-0), where each of the talents, including the youngest – João Felix was the best example – was able to play his game without being magnetized by his idol.

In the decisive matches, it is he who is there

It was also during other more distant matches, in the League of Nations (Italy, Poland…). But never when the slope has risen, since for four years, Ronaldo has always managed to be there when expected.

In short, the sample is still too small to materialize a general impression which, between the Atlantic and the Spanish border, is not yet in the majority. According to a poll carried out for several major national dailies, 59.5% of the people believe that Cristiano Ronaldo should still be a starter. Which still means that two out of five Portuguese would like to see him settle on the bench. And within a selection where everyone still considers CR7 as “The best player in the world“, Fernando Santos the first, the subject is still taboo.

Have the Blues been as successful as that?

They can say the team is better off without himunderlined Ricardo Quaresma, who has spent his entire career in his shadow, during an interview with O Jogo a few months ago. But in the decisive matches, he is the one who is there” The guy’s CV has given him endless immunity. Isn’t the golden generation, second in name in Portugal, eternal? Ronaldo, he has already assured that he will be, in a sure and certain way, at the Euro 2024. Beware of waste.

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