Cristiano Ronaldo and free-kicks.
While some of the 36-year-old’s most famous moments across one of the most remarkable careers in sporting history have come from free-kicks, it’d be fair to say his genius from them has waned over the years.
That’s not to cast any dispersions on his quality of course but gone are the days when the infamous ‘knuckleball’ technique he introduced in the late-2000s would strike fear into the opposition. Indeed, Ronaldo has had to (and successfully done so) find other ways to hurt opposing teams.
Given his extraordinary talents, it seems somewhat unfair to criticise him too much.
Still, it’s those very talents that make it so jarring when we see Ronaldo’s standards slip, even for just a second.
Never was that more obvious than at the 2014 World Cup.
During what was a pretty miserable tournament for his country, Ronaldo’s side lost their opening group game 4-0 to Germany.
On a sticky afternoon in Salvador, Portugal huffed and puffed but could not deal with the Germans’ attacking threat through the likes of Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil with their task made much harder by Pepe’s sending off.
Ever the talisman, Ronaldo seemed to be on a one-man mission to at least try and rescue something from the game, although his free-kick attempt was so poor even the commentator started laughing.
Such was the confidence Germany had when Ronaldo stepped up to take the free-kick, they only placed one player in the wall. Granted, the Portuguese was a long way from goal and Manuel Neuer was considered the world’s best goalkeeper but it’s almost impossible to imagine teams allowing Ronaldo that space even in a few years earlier.
In fact, their choice of player for a wall said a lot too. Philipp Lahm, the smallest player on the pitch, was selected to try and block the shot.
You can watch what happened below.
Somehow, Ronaldo manages to hit Lahm’s legs with an awfully weak shot that drew laughter from the German commentary team.
Luckily, four years later in Russia, Ronaldo’s free-kick against Spain would form part of one of the most iconic World Cup performances of all time.
Either way, it was a terrible day at the office for Ronaldo and Portugal.