Tactics Bored: How Ronaldo gave up on goals

The Rio Report

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The World Cup is still happening, and with an average of around three goals a game, it’s fair to say that it’s been a tactically disappointing competition.

As we all know, tactics elevate the game above things as vulgar as scoring, which have been getting in the way so far. The best match so far as been Iran 0-0 Nigeria, where two sides’ concentration, preparation and application of the lessons of Valeriy Lobanovskiy without failure led to the perfect conclusion of a game - the goalless draw that was unsatisfactory to the majority of the audience.


There have been far too many other matches, sadly, where goals have flown in regularly and dramatically.


Portugal were last night involved in a thrilling match with USA. Portugal overcame an early injury to Helder Postiga, USA fought back and equalised with Jermaine Jones' absolutely stonking long-range strike, and then took the lead. It was Silvestre Varela who equalised for Portugal in the dying seconds of the match, and the plebs really enjoyed it.

Now, a great deal has been said about Cristiano Ronaldo’s performances so far - that he’s injured, that he’s taking on too much responsibility or that he’s egotistical, or perhaps that the rest of the team are not serving him well enough. This is incorrect. Ronaldo has already proven that he can be the best player in the world - in the traditional, obvious sense - with countless goals, assists and tricks. He has talked about leaving a legacy, one that needs a stellar performance at the World Cup to equal the stories of Pele and Maradona. People are saying he has failed to do that, and people are idiots.


Ronaldo is becoming a new type of great. A tactical great to rival Philip Cocu, Lucas Leiva and Michael Carrick. He has become anti-goals. He has transcended the scoreboard and is all about the stats. As established, the perfect example of tactics is a 0-0 draw. Ronaldo’s team-mates have failed him so far, with a 4-0 loss to Germany, and now a 2-2 tie. All in spite of Ronaldo. A quick look at all the places he has scored from in this competition, in the diagram below, demonstrates just how committed he is to the concept of the perfect stalemate:

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Continuing on a Ronaldo theme, this time we need to expand the discussion, as Twitter - the primordial soup from which tactics diagrams mutate and evolve - has started to. Last night was the apex, as gentleman and lady after gentleman and lady decided they should tell the world that, anyway, the Old Brazilian Ronaldo was better than the New Cristiano Ronaldo.

Some Cristiano supporters responded that this was inevitable: it is the reaction of the ageing, nostalgic, deeply heterosexual football-supporting man, who is in thrall to traditional ideas of Brazilian skill and tradition.

However, the truly radical and correct belief is that not only is Cristiano Ronaldo more talented - through hard work and intelligence and also with more genius than Brazilian Ronaldo ever had - but that his perfection of the physique of man has led to a blurring of binary sexuality as a concept, and that he is also blurring the idea of what is traditionally attractive to the average man, and challenges the gender norms of women alone being affected by or embracing aesthetic demands of beauty.

This reaction was, obviously, the right one. There is scientific proof to this. If you have a look at the type of man who prefers Brazilian Ronaldo over Cristiano Ronaldo, and then have a look at what makes up his wardrobe, you can see it is the epitome of staid intellectual and sexual traditionalism and mediocrity:

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Against Algeria, Belgium struggled to a late win over Algeria. The goal they conceded was a penalty, when Jan Vertonghen brought down Sofiane Feghouli. In midfield, Mousa Dembele held back the squad to such an extent that he was removed after 65 minutes, and then Belgium proceeded to win. As a result, Marc Wilmots learned a valuable lesson in the World Cup - if you start with a Spurs player in your side, you will play badly.

At first, this just looks like a cheap dig at Spurs, a small London club that is growing increasingly bitter as Arsenal and Chelsea consistently outperform them, capable of stunning short-sightedness and hamstrung by a chairman who can’t see beyond the immediate balance book, and who plainly doesn’t understand how to plan for the future with managerial appointments. But then, it starts to make sense.

Think of the other big side at the World Cup with a Spurs player, Brazil midfielder Paulinho, and remember that apart from Neymar, the team have stunk the place out like Steven Gerrard at a Dignity Convention. If Cameroon and Algeria want to improve their performances, too, then it’s bad news for Nabil Bentaleb and Benoit Assou-Ekotto.


Yes! New tactics! The whole point of the World Cup has finally been satisfied. We have new, pointless vernacular with which to keep up to date. Last night, a leading American soccer pen behemoth tweeted, “Note Jones has shifted from tilted left to tilted right for this game. Expect that’s to deal with Ronaldo, who leans to the left.”

The less synaptically sparkling amongst us might respond, “What?” and they might have good reason to do, because on first, second, third and last reading, it simply appears to be gobbledegook parading as insight. That’s until you put it into pictorial form:

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Now is it so hard to understand? Exactly. Score one for the pen behemoth.

Alexander Netherton - @lxndrnthrtn

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