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Why was Portugal and Real Madrid ace Cristiano Ronaldo struggling to score, until now?

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It comes to no surprise or shock to anyone to say that Euro 2016 did not start off so well for Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portugal captain, having only just scored his first goal of the tournament yesterday, has racked up new records in France, but not necessarily ones that he should be particularly proud of.

At club level, the Real Madrid striker enjoyed a very successful season, scoring a total of 51 goals in 48 games in all competitions, as well as striking the winning penalty in the Champions League final shoot-out. However, when it comes to international level, his luck evaded him when we look back to his performance in his first two games, but not for a lack of trying, as that stats showed.

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The stats showed…

Ronaldo struggled in front of goal at the tournament at first, with 24 shots without scoring – until scoring two goals in yesterday’s game against Hungary. For context, that is more total shots than nine entire teams so far, including Italy, Turkey and Wales.

Out of the 97 shots he has attempted in both the European Championship and World Cup finals, 38 of these have been free kicks. Not to mention that 97 shots is the most of any player and 43 more than second placed Thierry Henry.

His accuracy from long range was also alarming – over 60% of Ronaldo’s shots this tournament have come from outside the penalty area.

Overall for Portugal, they were averaging just over 62% possession per game, which is the third highest in the 2016 Euros so far, behind Germany and Spain. Out of Ronaldo’s 24 shots, 10 have been blocked (41.7%). By Matchday 2 alone, he had more shots blocked this tournament than any other player had taken.

Portugal have also attempted over 100 passes into the box. However, they are only connecting on just over 30% of them, which is ranked 10th best in the tournament.

Nonetheless, there is one statistic in Ronaldo’s favour. He made his 17th European Championship final appearance in Portugal’s final Group F fixture against Hungary, which is an outright record.

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So why was Ronaldo not scoring until now?

To take away some of blame on Ronaldo, the first two goalkeepers he faced had been on top form. Iceland’s Hannes Thor Halldorsson and Austria’s Robert Almer done a good job keeping Portugal out of the net. Combined, the two have blocked 15 out of the 16 total shots on target that they faced from Portugal. For the 2016 Euros, they rank first and tied for third in saves, respectively.

In addition to this, Ronaldo had not been getting passes in good areas. Having had 13 shots created for him in those first two games, only five were in the box. In contrast to the previously mention stats, he has an expected goals value of exactly 1.0 on said shots, which is the 7th most at the tournament.

Compared these opening two fixtures to Tuesday’s match versus Hungary, in which Ricardo Quaresma, who had just been introduced from the bench, sent in a cross for Ronaldo to head home to complete his brace. The level or service for the Real Madrid man was much improved.

Another factor to consider is Ronaldo’s shot selection. Currently his attempts at goal are coming from an average of 25.1 yards, which is actually the 9th farthest among the 41 players with at least five shots. This, naturally, would explain why he has seen more shots off target (31.8%) then on target (22.7%).

In addition to this, Ronaldo has become more influential in a creative manner.

Few will forget the moment he slipped an inch-perfect pass through to former Manchester United team-mate Luis Nani, with 40-year-old goalkeeper Gábor Király unable to get down in time to stop the ball getting through at the near post.

He recorded two key passes against Hungary – a total that equaled his efforts from the first two group games combined.

Away from the game, fans should do well to remember that Cristiano Ronaldo is human.

Having not long turned 31, he is adjusting his game accordingly – just as all great players should. He is holding himself back and giving himself a rest.

This explains why in the Champions League, he averaged to 2.1 dribbles per game, as opposed to his previous 3.3, and why he is no longer among the top 100 dribblers in La Liga.

Every player is allowed to go through a dry spell, and the more extraordinary the player, the more the dry spell will be noticed – and with the heat of the 2016 Euros, there is even more pressure than ever to play on top form.

Ronaldo did just prove he was capable in his performance in Portugal’s game just yesterday. Maybe we should cut the guy some slack?


Featured image: All rights reserved by BOM DIA Portugal no Mundo

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Austria

Five players to watch in Group F feat. Swansea and Stoke City stars

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Before the action kicks off in Euro 2016, TBR looks ahead to try and identify some of the players to watch in each group. The final one to be covered is Group F, which consists of Austria, Hungary, Iceland and Portugal, and promises to be a compelling watch.

Austria; often tagged as ‘also-rans’, finally have a squad that is showing some promise. Hungary; whilst probably the weakest side in the group and a far cry from the famous sides of yesteryear, have the potential to cause problems for their opponents and should not be written off. Iceland, a country of just 200,000 people, qualified for their first Euros automatically, and will be riding a wave of momentum, excitement and good-will from neutrals. Portugal are the big boys of the group and will definitely be expecting to progress, and for once, they seem to have quality all over the pitch.

So without further ado, over the next few pages are the five players that you should be watching out for in Group F of Euro 2016. If there are others who you feel deserve a mention, let us know in the comments section below.

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David Alaba (Austria)

David Alaba, at just 23 years of age, has had a remarkable career and is a regular in the Bayern Munich squad that has dominated the Bundesliga to a great extent for the past few years. He is very much the wonder-kid of Austria’s new generation, having made his debut for the national team in 2009 at the age of just 17. Since then he has gone on to gain 41 caps, scoring 11 goals – not bad for a midfielder/defender in a side that hasn’t been packed with quality.

Alaba can play at left-back (where he started his career and incidentally where he operates primarily in club football), centre-back or in central midfield, and his versatility will bode well for Austria if any injuries or suspensions take out players in those positions.

His ability to both attack and defend will also come in handy should Austria find themselves playing against sides of superior quality, allowing him to play a defensive role and then joining counter attacks.

That being said, he is still young and prone to the occasional gaffe, as he proved against Malta recently where he passed the ball into his own empty net when under little pressure. Alaba will need to keep his focus when the Euros kick off, as Austria will not be able to afford such lapses.

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Austria

Top 10 alternative players to watch at the Euros feat. Fulham and Bayern stars

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There’s just one week now until the beginning of the long awaited Euro 2016 tournament. Most sources covering the tournament will focus on the same handful of players to look out for, usually consisting of familiar names from the biggest clubs in the world.

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However, with the expansion of the competition to 24 teams, there is even more unheralded talent on display than any Euros previous. This list will pick out ten players who have yet to establish themselves as household names who could breakout into superstars over the next few weeks.

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