MADRID: Cristiano Ronaldo’s remarkable World Cup hat-trick in Sweden on Tuesday may have come just in time for him to edge to success in the FIFA World Player of the Year poll writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Until events in Stockholm, when Portugal won their qualifying play-off 3-2 to clinch a place in next summer’s finals in Brazil, Ronaldo was considered as trailing Bayern Munich’s Frank Ribery in pursuit of the prize dominated for the last three years by Barcelona and Argentina’s Lionel Messi.
However the way in which 28-year-old Ronaldo topped off his extraordinary goalscoring record for Real Madrid may have earned him the favour of the majority of the national coaches and captains and journalists who must now cast their votes.
The Real Madrid forward’s fifth hat-trick of the season followed up his lone goal in the first leg in Libson. Conveniently, FIFA has shifted the voting deadline from November 15 to 29 after receiving such a poor ballot response thus far.
Ronaldo said: “I know Portugal needed me in these matches and I showed I am here. I just did my work as I have been doing lately.
“I respect Sweden a lot, I think they have a fantastic team, they have experienced players, they have a good coach, but in both games we played better than them, we created more chances, we played solid. I think we deserved to win and we were the best team.”
Ronaldo’s hat-trick drew him level with Pauleta as Portugal’s joint-top scorer on 47 goals. He added: “This is a beautiful day for me personally and for my country.”
So far this season Ronaldo has scored 34 goals in 24 games for club and country including eight in the Champions League, more than all but eight of the 32 teams involved.
He has scored four hat-tricks in league football in 2013, twice as many as any other player in the top five European leagues. Three of those hat-tricks have come in his last six appearances and he has scored at least once in 16 of his last 19 games.
Only nine of the 20 La Liga teams have scored more than his 16 league goals this season and he has scored or assisted in 19 of Madrid’s 35 league goals.