The history of Ronaldo in the World CupRonaldo Nazario de Lima is probably one of the best strikers in the history of football and if it hadn't been for the knee injuries, we might be talking about the best player in history, although that's impossible to know. His history at club level was spectacular, but today we are going to highlight his international career with Brazil and, more specifically, time at the World Cup, where he experienced some of the most symbolic moments of his professional career.
For the vast majority of professional football players in the world, only being able to participate in a World Cup match is basically a dream, but in the case of Ronaldo, he had the chance to participate in four of them, also being the protagonist one way or another in each of them. Next we will take a tour of Ronaldo's career in each of the World Cups in which he participated.
1994The Brazilian began playing futsal, where he acquired the speed of movement and ability to dribble that characterized him throughout his career. His first steps in 11-player football took place at Sao Cristovao, where he was trained by Jairzinho, who, impressed by his talent, helped him get to Cruzeiro, where Ronaldo would make his professional debut. The striker only needed one season to impress all of Brazil, to the point of being called up for the 1994 World Cup by Carlos Alberto Parreira at just 17 years old, being, along with Rigobert Song, the youngest player in the tournament.
Ronaldo's position in the squad could have belonged to the other great promise of Brazilian football at the time, Dener, who died unexpectedly a couple of months before the World Cup. His place in the squad was mainly due to his talent and what he had shown at Cruzeiro, but he had some media and even political influence at some point, in addition to a constant comparison with Pelé.
In fact, the latter was the reason that was unofficially said to have prevented Ronaldo from having a minute in the World Cup: the Brazilian idolatry of Pelé, who did not want Ronaldo to break any record for the Brazilian legend. There is nothing official about this. Finally, despite not having participated in any match, Ronaldo had a great first experience with the cup, being a World Cup in his first try.
1998After the 1994 World Cup, Ronaldo signed for PSV Eindhoven, where he spent two years, then he went to FC Barcelona, where he only stayed one year before going to play for Inter Milan. In the 1998 World Cup, Ronaldo was finishing his first season in Italy as one of the main stars of world football, and was, in fact, the current Ballon d'Or winner. Ronaldo started with a slightly slow performance in the group stage of the World Cup but as he progressed, his level improved, to the point of reaching the final with a record of 4 goals in 6 games.
The same day that the final was going to be played, something happened that strongly involved Ronaldo and a series of rumors of all kinds were unleashed. However, what happened, according to the Brazilian player himself, was that after lunch, he was going to take a nap and at bedtime he suffered a severe seizure. When he woke up, he was surrounded by his teammates and the doctors of the Brazilian team, they took him for tests that did not reveal anything unusual, which served as a justification for Ronaldo for Mario Zagallo to let him play in the final.
The match ended 3-0 in favor of France and Ronaldo had a discreet performance.
2002Unlike what happened in 1998, Ronaldo arrived at the World Cup in Korea and Japan at a difficult time since he had just recently recovered from his second serious knee injury which, between them, kept him away from the pitches for most of the 1999/2000, 2000/01, and 2001/02 seasons.
Despite that, Ronaldo showed his quality and scored 6 goals in the 6 games leading up to the final, scoring in each of them except the quarter-final match against England. In the final, Ronaldo was the star scoring both goals of the match, taking advantage of the first from Oliver Kahn's rebound from Rivaldo's shot and in the second with a great shot from outside the area.
In this way, Ronaldo won the second World Cup, although his first as the figure of his national team.
The 2002 World Cup served Ronaldo to become the Galactico that Florentino Pérez would sign in the summer of 2002. At Real Madrid he would have a great performance, which allowed him to reach Germany 2006 in good sporting shape, although with some doubts about his weight, controversy that was surrounding him during his time in Spain.
The Brazilian had a new challenge for the World Cup: to become the tournament's all-time top scorer. Ronaldo had scored 12 goals in total in the 1998 and 2002 editions and was just two goals away from matching Gerd Muller, who was the all-time top scorer in the World Cup since 1974 with 14 goals.
In the group stage, Ronaldo scored a double against Japan and quickly equalized the German and in the round of 16 match against Ghana, the Brazilian star, with all the pressure on his men to exceed the mark, he only needed 5 minutes to face the Ghanaian goalkeeper, feint with his body and leave him on the road to score without problems, becoming the top scorer in the history of the World Cups, until 2014 when Miroslav Klose surpassed him.
Unfortunately, in the quarterfinals, Brazil would lose to the France of a splendid Zidane, with a goal from Henry.