It was a crowning moment of individual brilliance, adding more grist to the musings of TIME’s Bobby Ghosh on whether Cristiano Ronaldo could single-handedly drive his team to victory at Euro 2012. Peeling away from his marker, Ronaldo hurled himself at a low cross from the right, thumping his header down into the turf and bouncing the ball into the roof of the net for a goal that any center forward would be proud of. It was a brilliant reminder that there’s so much more to CR7’s game than terrorizing defenders with his speed and control down the flanks or blasting home free kicks from great distances. After he had spent the best part of an hour locked in frustration because of the poor passing and anticipation of his teammates, the woodwork for denying him what seemed a certain goal, and referee Howard Webb for turning down many of his appeals, it ought to have been a moment to savor. Ronaldo had booked Portugal’s passage to the semifinal. But Ronaldo’s mind was far, far away. To celebrate his goal, he barged over to the cameras and by by some accounts called out “Messi!” before blowing a sarcastic kiss. (Others insist Ronaldo was simply dedicating the goal to his young son.)
Still, the impish Argentine Lionel Messi is regarded as the world’s best player, and the fact that he plays for Barcelona, archrivals of Ronaldo’s Real Madrid, draws inevitable comparisons — comparisons that drive Ronaldo mad. The problem, of course, is that rival fans are onto his Messi obsession: every time he shot and missed against Denmark, the Danish fans chanted, “Messi! Messi!” And the more he lashes out in frustration, the more of that kind of stick he’s going to get. Sadder still is the fact that while Ronaldo is blowing kisses on TV, those who know Messi say it’s highly unlikely he was even watching. Messi rarely watches games in which he’s not involved, and Ronaldo is an issue for him only when he can see him across the pitch in the opposition’s jersey. That’s one bit of Messi’s game that Ronaldo ought to adopt.