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Dirty Tackle

Cristiano Ronaldo is turning into Portugal’s Fernando Torres

Brooks Peck
Dirty Tackle

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Cristiano Torres. (AP)

Everybody has bad days. But there comes a time when too many bad days turns into a trend and the next thing you know, what was once so easy now, suddenly, feels impossible. This is what happened to Spain and Chelsea striker Fernando Torres starting right around the time a British record £50 million was spent to acquire him and now it appears to be happening to Cristiano Ronaldo, right around the time he's being prodded to carry Portugal on his back with an increasingly large knife.

It might seem unthinkable that a man just off a season in which he scored a career-high 60 goals for Real Madrid across all competitions (second only to Leo Messi) could now be unable to score against a goalkeeper who plays club football for Evian in Ligue 1, but that's the predicament Cristiano Ronaldo finds himself in. And while Nicklas Bendtner, a man whose superhuman confidence has always exceeded his performance, twice scored for Denmark against Portugal, Ronaldo, a man whose superhuman confidence actually has matched his performance, had to rely on his teammates to score three goals and make up for his blown opportunities.

He was given some slack in Portugal's Euro 2012 opening loss to Germany because he was trying and, well, it was Germany. But against Denmark, his own shortcomings weren't shrouded by his teammates' lesser abilities and every time he got the spotlight he normally feeds off of, it burned him. He kicked the ball into the keeper's hands, wide of the post and at times even missed the ball entirely -- which actually allowed Varela to get the ball and score the winning goal for Portugal in the 87th minute. With each squandered chance, Ronaldo became more visibly frustrated, hesitant and distrusting of his superior instincts (a notion that was previously impossible), finally releasing his anguish by blatantly tripping an opponent from behind to earn the clearest of yellow cards.

Ronaldo was the joint-third leading scorer in Euro 12 qualifying (which Portugal had to go through a playoff to do) with seven goals, so he has hardly been a dead weight with an armband for his country in recent years, but his struggles once a major tournament begins are growing more and more profound as the standard he sets for himself at the club level continues to rise. And like Scrooge with his ghosts, Ronaldo might feel that Euro 2012 is turning into a nightmare with Torres as his phantom escort.

Match highlights from Portugal's win over Denmark here:

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