>Monday Lunch: Dissecting Ronaldo’s World Cup Goals

Posted: February 14, 2011 in soccer
Tags: , , , , ,


By Evan Ream

With the sad news today of Ronaldo’s retirement, I would like to look back at the record he is most widely recognized for. Ronaldo is perhaps the greatest forward of all time, and he proved it on the biggest stage: the World Cup. In 19 World Cup games, Ronaldo scored 15 goals, nearly every one a demonstration of his sublime ability and determination. Today may be a sad day for the soccer community, but we will always remember what Ronaldo did on the biggest stage.

June 10th 1998, Brazil 3 Morocco 0 (0:00 into the clip)

At first glance, this goal looks to be all about the one touch volley, which is impressive; you can see him wait just that extra half second to let the ball fall far enough so that he doesn’t sky the shot, but this goal is so much more. This goal is all about Ronaldo’s awareness. Watch how he is a good two steps behind the Moroccan center back who thinks that Ronaldo is offside, but Ronaldo is aware of the right back keeping him on. Rivaldo set this up with a great pass, but Ronaldo’s awareness was amazing in this situation.


June 27th 1998, Brazil 4 Chile 1 (0:12 into the clip)

There isn’t really much to say about this other than it was a decently taken penalty. The keeper got a hand to it, but the shot was too powerful. Ronaldo showed good confidence in stepping up and taking this rather than defer to a more seasoned veteran.


June 27th 1998, Brazil 4 Chile 1 (0:22 into the clip)

This goal showcased some more classic off the ball movement from Ronaldo, who timed his run perfectly and calmly finished the ball past the Chilean keeper.


July 7th 1998, Brazil 1 Netherlands 1, Brazil win 4-2 on PKs (1:09 into the clip)

This was easily the best goal Ronaldo scored at this World Cup. He made a terrific run off the ball while holding off his defender and finishing in two touches. What is most impressive though is how softly he takes down the ball on the outside of his left foot, his off foot. There are so many players in the world that would have never even tried to do this, but Ronaldo shows here that he can use both of his feet if needed.


June 3rd 2002, Brazil 2 Turkey 1 (1:40 into the clip)

Rivaldo played Ronaldo an amazing ball here, but this goal clearly demonstrates Ronaldo’s athleticism in stretching full length to hit a volley. Even when he was clearly not 100% healthy, Ronaldo did things that made you go “wow.”


June 8th 2002, Brazil 4 China 0 (2:38 into the clip)

This is actually my second favorite Ronaldo World Cup goal. I know this goal seems like an easy finish at first, but I can count on one hand how many forwards are actually smart enough to make this run. Just look at how long he holds his run. So many players would have made the run way earlier and be picked up by a defender. Ronaldo sees the play before it happens and starts sprinting at exactly the right time. You can’t teach this stuff; it’s just instinctual play.


June 13th 2002, Brazil 5 Costa Rica 2 (3:23 into the clip)

There isn’t much to say about this goal; many think it was an own goal, but Ronaldo shows impressive strength in holding off his defender and getting at least something on the ball to make it go in. This was a true goal scorer’s goal.


June 13th 2002, Brazil 5 Costa Rica 2 (3:55 into the clip)

I still don’t know how he pulled this one off. His feet were so quick and he was so quick to react from his own failed header. Ronaldo always knew where the ball was and always knew what to do with it. He proved this, and his superior technique in this goal.


June 17th 2002, Brazil 2 Belgium 0 (4:49 into the clip)

Benefitting from yet another amazing pass, Ronaldo scored this opportunistic goal to seal the win in the round of 16 against Belgium. Nothing about this goal was particularly impressive; he got a bit lucky with the finish. Even the great ones get lucky sometimes.


June 26th 2002, Brazil 1 Turkey 0 (5:44 into the clip)

This goal (my favorite) showed what Ronaldo was all about. He had the audacity in such an important game to take on four defenders at once and fire in an unstoppable shot WITH HIS TOE. Ronaldo had done some impressive things before this, but this was simply amazing. At first glance, it doesn’t look that impressive, but watch the replay. The Turkish keeper clearly isn’t ready because when Ronaldo moves his leg it just looks like he’s about to take another touch on the ball before shooting. The fact that he had that kind of accuracy in slotting the ball into the corner of the net while running at full speed, with his toe, is just something that may never be repeated. This was the best of the 15 World Cup goals he scored, which is saying something.


June 30th 2002, Brazil 2 Germany 0 (6:42 into the clip)

When you are young, coaches always tell you to follow your shot. Ronaldo could have been lazy and not done that and probably still won this game, but the fact that he followed a routine shot that the world’s best goalkeeper at the time should have easily caught means that Ronaldo has 15 World Cup goals instead of 14. There is nothing impressive about this goal except for Ronaldo’s determination to make up for the 1998 World Cup Final.


June 30th 2002, Brazil 2 Germany 0 (7:22 into the clip)

This was the goal that people were talking about from the Final. This goal is an amazing bit of interplay from the Brazilian team, but the most amazing part about it is Ronaldo’s first two touches. First, clearly expecting the ball to come to him, as most wouldn’t, Ronaldo sets his shot up with an extremely deft touch that most players wouldn’t be able to make. The second touch, perhaps more impressive, was him calmly passing the ball into the net. The ball, which grazes off the post, is a ball, which almost no other player would have attempted. So many players, being at the top of the box, would simply blast that as hard as possible and hope for the best. Not Ronaldo. Not in 2002. Ronaldo demonstrates why we tell our youth players “placement over power.”


June 22nd 2006, Brazil 4 Japan 1 (8:07 into the clip)

As good as Ronaldo was, the worst part of his game (if you are really nitpicking) was that he didn’t score many goals with his head. Ronaldo shows that he can score this way, picking up his only World Cup header goal with a cool finish.


June 22nd 2006, Brazil 4 Japan 1 (8:50 into the clip)

Once again, Ronaldo proves that placement over power is always preferred. Though he hits this ball decently hard, you can see that he is clearly aiming for the right corner, something tough to do from 20 yards. Ronaldo sets this up with an amazing first touch and curls it around the keeper.


June 27th 2006, Brazil 3 Ghana 0 (9:23 into the clip)

Although he was clearly overweight and past his prime, Ronaldo again demonstrated his amazing movement off the ball and finishing ability to break the all-time World Cup goal scoring record in style. Using a simple step over, Ronaldo easily finishes the last goal he will ever score in the World Cup.


Ronaldo gave us so many great World Cup moments, both good and bad, but he will always be remembered as one of the best players of all time. Once again, it is a sad day today because he had to call it quits, but we will always remember him and his 15 amazing World Cup goals.

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