In praise of Cristina

Tonight is the first of the semi-finals in Euro2012.  There’s only three games left of what has been a superb tournament, a fact that’s getting me down a little.  Articles have appeared in the Polish press over the last couple of days lamenting the fact that the finals are coming to a close.  One compared the tournament to the visit of friends. Sometimes you’re glad they’ve gone, as you stare at the stains on the carpet and the terrible present they’ve got you from the local supermarket.  However sometimes their absence leaves a hole and you’re faced with the reality of work and all those other little things that irritate on a day to day basis.  Yes I don’t think Poland really wants the fans and the media to leave, nor do I.

There are other little things that remind us that it’s the end of the tournament, travelling past the empty national stadium on the tram and the return to unpleasant national quarrels including attempts by PiS to bring in a law which threatens to puts those who attempt to use IVF treatment in prison for two years.  Last night a man on the street in which I live started to belt out the ‘Polska – Bialo Czerwoni’ chant which has been so ever-present across the country but stopped halfway through.  Yes we are close to an abrupt return to normality.

Still we have three more matches left.  Tonight we see Portugal attempt to bring down the tiki-taka revolution/bore-fest that Spain have brought to these shores.  At the heart of all of Portugal’s attempts will be one man who people laud and deplore at the same time.  A man whose strength, acceleration, determination, skill and heading ability are able to bring the best of defences to its knees.  A man who was able to bring the title to Real Madrid despite the previous domination of their main rivals Barcelona.   A man whose ridiculous haircut, bulging muscles and pained expression are a little bit too much for the overwhelmingly masculine world in which football operates.  Yes that man is Cristiano (or Cristina as many refer to him) Ronaldo.

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Cristiano loses his car keys

Now I’ve normally not been the biggest fan of this overemotional and overpaid superstar.  However in his recent couple of games he has (somewhat) won me over.  Almost single-handedly (with an able supporting cast) he has brought Portugal victory against Holland and against the Czech Republic.  In both games Ronaldo’s presence dominated the game.  Especially against the Czechs he was everywhere, shooting with both feet, forcing saves left-right and centre and of course coming up with the winning goal, a bullet header that Alan Shearer would have been proud of.

But the main reason for my semi-Ronaldo love is the fact he is the best hope yet of ending the Iniesta-inspired Spanish juggernaut.  It’s going to be a tough ask, and the worry is that Spain will simply outpass Portugal to such an extent that Ronaldo won’t be able to make his mark on the game.  But I’m hoping that Portugal’s midfield will have several opportunities to play Ronaldo in, and he will do the rest.  Either way, it should be a fascinating battle.

Of course should Spain win then we will (probably) get to see a Germany-Spain final that most neutrals want, and a Portugal defeat would bring more gushing tears from Ronaldo.  This time however people might, just might feel sorry for him.

Anyway Cristiano, show us your best side tonight.  Messi will be watching.

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