Mike Gibbons

Mike Gibbons is an aspiring young journalist from the UK who has followed the World Cup with passion from an early age. He will share his views about the past, present and future of this event.

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Ronaldo makes history - can he make more?

    We’ve all had a good laugh at Ronaldo dragging his tubby frame around Germany these past few weeks, so it’s time to give credit where credit is due. With his two goals against Japan he equalled the all-time scoring record at the World Cup of fourteen by Gerd Muller. Leapfrogging Just Fontaine in the process, one more goal and the record is his outright.

    Given that he was on a yellow card it did seem a strange decision by Parreira to start him, especially as the previously booked Emerson and Cafu had a night off. It smacked of the last chance saloon for him – either score tonight or you’re history. In the end he scored twice and made history. He was lucky that he was playing a) in a team prepared to walk the ball into his feet, and b) against a team in sheer awe of Brazil, but the quality with which he took both goals, particularly the second, is enduring proof that class is permanent.

    It looks like he has avoided the axe for now, but a dramatic improvement in his fitness and touch are required as there won’t be defences in the last sixteen prepared to be so liberal towards him. He still looks at least a stone overweight and I can’t see him getting into shape by July 9th if Brazil gets that far. Can he carry them, or to put it more precisely can his team carry him, to a sixth World Cup? Does he even want to do it anymore?

    The European Cup aside, Ronaldo has won everything - League championships, domestic cups, UEFA and European Cup Winners Cups, the South American Championship and the World Cup. It is a jaw-droppingly impressive CV. Top scorer in the World Cup four years ago, his career looked to have been resurrected. Injuries had destroyed the free-running player that was so devastating in the mid-nineties, yet he was still a world class goal scorer.

    And he moved to Real Madrid. In hindsight the decision to switch from the San Siro to the Bernabau and grow fat and old with the rest of the ageing Galactico’s was a cataclysmic one and has seen his career slip into a trough that he is unable to dig himself out of. The fans don’t like him, he misses several games and the experience appears to have sucked the ambition right out of him. He looks drained, like there is no will or fight left in him. What other possible excuse is there to turn up to a World Cup training camp, two goals shy of Gerd Muller’s record and in the squad of the favourites, weighing fifteen stone? Did he think it was the Rugby World Cup?

    If he does need to rekindle his motivation he could do worse than take a look at the man whose record he has just equalled. Whereas Ronaldo’s thirteenth and fourteenth strikes came in the cakewalk against Japan, Muller’s thirteenth put his team in the final and the fourteenth won it for them. He needs one more to break the record. If he could help his team into the final and win it he will have his third winners medal, rivalled only by Pele and his current team mate Cafu. If he could score in the final that is a feat only matched by Pele, Vava and Paul Breitner. A potentially unsurpassable legacy is there to be made if he wants it badly enough, and surely he would not want to be remembered in his current incarnation, an at times embarrassing shadow of his former self? The final memory is often the most enduring – as an American comedian once noted, why do all Elvis impersonators pick the Vegas years when they pay homage?

    Luckily for Ronaldo he is royalty amongst his colleagues. With Adriano also off colour and Robinho chomping at the bit to start games there will be an interesting selection dilemma for Parreira in the knockout phases. It tells you everything you need to know about our expectancy levels of Brazil that having won three games, scored seven goals and conceded just one the general feeling is that they have been a disappointment so far. Of the so-called golden quartet only Kaka has lived up to his billing, with even Ronaldinho yet to hit form in this World Cup. Next up for Brazil will be a Ghana team deprived of the outstanding Michael Essien due to suspension, but with the lively Asamoah Gyan and Sulley Muntari to return.

    To close I would like to offer a hearty congratulations to Australia, who are having quite a World Cup so far. Italy should beware as Hiddink has them well organised and has instilled a never-say-die attitude that has found harmony with the traditional self-belief of the Australian. The two-all draw with Croatia was a cracking game despite the best efforts of Graham Poll to ruin it. It takes something to be the most incompetent Englishman at this World Cup but in failing to spot two penalties that couldn’t have been clearer had he been five yards away and viewing the incidents through the Hubble telescope, not to mention booking Josip Simunic an incredible three times, Poll has surpassed himself. This strutting peacock of a referee has always carried a ‘they’ll remember me from this game’ attitude, and now, thanks to his startling ineptitude, he’ll get his wish.



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