Ronaldo, Portugal unable to continue great run at World Cup
SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo couldn’t carry the team by himself this time.
The five-time player of the year, who scored four goals in his opening two matches at the World Cup, was eliminated from the tournament on Saturday after Portugal lost to Uruguay 2-1 in the round of 16.
“We gave our best,” Ronaldo said. “The team played well. As the team captain I am proud of this group.”
Portugal won the 2016 European Championship and came to Russia with high expectations following the surprise title in France two years ago, its first in a major tournament. Ronaldo started off this year’s tournament with a hat trick against Spain and then added another goal against Morocco.
But on Saturday, it was Edinson Cavani who scored twice to earn victory for the Uruguayans.
“No team can win with one player alone,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said. “He tried. The team didn’t win because Uruguay scored twice.”
Portugal hasn’t reached the World Cup quarterfinals since 2006, when a young Ronaldo led the team to the semifinals. Back then, Portugal lost to France and eventually finished fourth after losing to Germany in the consolation game.
Ronaldo, now 33 and still playing some of the best soccer of his life, failed to provide the spark Portugal needed against Uruguay.
Ronaldo’s great start in Russia allowed him to surpass the combined total of three goals he had scored in his previous three World Cups. He also joined Pele, Miroslav Klose and Uwe Seeler as the only players to score in four World Cups.
The four early goals in this year’s tournament had put him in position to contend for the “Golden Boot” trophy, but he was surpassed by England striker Harry Kane’s five goals in the group stage.
Despite his fast start in Russia, Ronaldo missed a penalty in the 1-1 draw against Iran in the third game. He also was nearly given a red card when his elbowing of an opponent was reviewed on video.
Prior to the World Cup, Ronaldo led Real Madrid to its third straight Champions League title, but he arrived in Russia surrounded by distractions about his club future and a tax fraud accusation back in Madrid.
He had said he would talk about his club future after joining the national team, but avoided the subject from the start. He only spoke briefly with the media in Russia.
“Now it’s not the time to talk about the future,” Ronaldo said. “I’m sure that the national team will remain as one of the best in the world. We have great players, a fantastic group.”