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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 July 2006, 06:38 GMT 07:38 UK
Backlash begins for Ronaldo
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer in Munich

Cristiano Ronaldo
Few outside Portugal will feel sympathy with Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo left the World Cup in tears after Portugal's semi-final defeat against France - and it is not a wild stab in the dark to suggest sympathy was in very short supply.

Munich's Allianz Arena delivered an early verdict on Manchester United winger Ronaldo and his role as English football's new villain.

Ronaldo's first touch in the opening seconds was greeted with a shattering and genuinely shocking chorus of jeers from all parts of a 66,000 capacity crowd.

England supporters in possession of tickets, having hoped to watch their own team in the semi-final, were presumably the prime movers, but the sound spread like a Mexican wave around the stadium.

This was not just English fans turning on Ronaldo - France fans happily joined in, and many other nations represented could also have played their part.

And it continued, long and loud throughout a first half in which Ronaldo showed great strength of character to emerge as the game's outstanding player.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and referee Horacio Elizondo
Ronaldo may have burned his bridges in England with his actions

It was a remarkable event, not just because it appeared to have given England and France rare sporting unity in their contempt for Ronaldo.

The strength of feeling against Ronaldo was tangible, and just a little exaggerated when set against the reason for the crowd's reaction.

Ronaldo's crime was to demand even closer attention from referee Horacio Elizondo to Wayne Rooney's stamp on Ricardo Carvalho's "tomatoes", as one Portuguese newspaper so delicately put it, in their quarter-final meeting.

And his status was confirmed by a conspiratorial wink to team-mates that appeared to suggest he felt it was a case of "job done" as his Old Trafford team-mate took the long walk in Gelsenkirchen.

Ronaldo's subsequent winning penalty hardly helped his popularity, and contributed to the hysteria he has been subjected to since.

He certainly paid for it in Munich, his pain only increased by France's 1-0 win.

Patrick Vieira fells Ronaldo
Ronaldo fell to the ground after this challenge from Vieira

And it casts a massive cloud over Ronaldo's Manchester United future.

After all, how can he look Rooney in the eye and stand alongside him in battle for United after helping wreck his colleague's World Cup?

The intervention has actually enabled some observers to overlook Rooney's stupidity in the whole affair.

Ronaldo would have to show huge resolve to turn public opinion back in his favour, even among Manchester United supporters, but his performance in Munich showed those commodities are not in short supply.

He was a major threat to France, particularly in the first half, a lone source of hope in a Portugal side that was too lightweight to threaten a serious knock-out blow to the rejuvenated 1998 champions.

The irony is that Ronaldo is the sort of player Sven-Goran Eriksson would have killed for to add an extra dimension to his squad.

Sadly, the other face of Ronaldo was also in evidence. The amateur dramatics - actually, let's call it diving - that earned him the contempt of thousands inside this space-age home of Bayern Munich.

Our man at the Portugal-France game

It is a sorry scar on the game of a lavishly-talented individual, and it is true there may be no way back for him in England as he continues, with perhaps a little too much zeal, to be set up as next season's Premiership hate figure.

Ronaldo will have to grow a thick skin to survive the treatment he is likely to receive, although he appeared to grow with every round of abuse in Munich.

And yet, it may be something he can turn to his advantage, given his recent flirtation with Real Madrid.

If Ronaldo wants to leave Manchester for Madrid, what better excuse than to say life is now impossible in England?

It may well be - and The Bernabeu is not an unattractive alternative.

The sorry chapter in this saga is that Ronaldo showed again against France that there is a potentially stunning talent attempting to escape from the variety of feints, step-overs and dives that are a blot on his landscape.

Ronaldo may have cried in Munich - unfortunately for him and his talent, many others were laughing.

Supporters 'hijack' Ronaldo vote
06 Jul 06 |  World Cup 2006
Ronaldo defiant after crowd abuse
06 Jul 06 |  Portugal
Scolari bemoans shot-shy Portugal
05 Jul 06 |  Portugal
Portugal 0-1 France
05 Jul 06 |  World Cup 2006
Rooney 'gobsmacked' by red card
03 Jul 06 |  World Cup 2006
England beaten on penalties again
01 Jul 06 |  World Cup 2006


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