#5 // Referee → Ronaldo Portugal 1 – 0 Spain

 

Sometimes there’s an assist that doesn’t show up on the score sheet.

One that doesn’t take a pass at all.

Third minute. Spain v Portugal. Group B opener. Iberia derby match. The ball at Cristiano Ronaldo’s feet. Darting into the box, gearing up for a cross, and—there it is. That vintage Ronaldo maneuver. He falls, he crashes, he rolls…

And the man in the yellow shirt provides the best setup pass he could ask for. Raising the whistle to his lips, he points his arm to the penalty spot.

 

 

When you try to explain to casual soccer fans the difference between Messi and Ronaldo, you’ll be saying one thing over and over:

Well—Messi never flops.

He stays on his feet. Always.

But Ronaldo, you try to cut him some slack. It could be that you’re being too hard on him. That with a player of a caliber like that, the expectations soar to an unfair place.

Then, you remember the old days. The diviest of the dives.

 

 

And your face makes the face that Nacho’s made. Your arms, your hands, your cheeks, your eyeballs—spazzed out together in protest.

 

 

But then, in the 44th minute, Ronaldo scored a second goal.

And, down 3-2 in the 88th, he draws a free kick and did what all of us have seen by now. He hikes his shorts up. He takes a wide stance. He exhales. And nets himself a hat trick on maybe the best shot of his career.

 

 

Seeing that, you forget about that whole dive.

That shameful assist from the referee.

 

And you think for a second: maybe he is the greatest.