Classic Strikers; 2002 World Cup redemption for the Brazilian Ronaldo

When the name Ronaldo is mentioned, football fans of a certain age and vintage immediately think of the great Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal. But there are plenty out there who know there was a guy named Ronaldo plying his trade in football many moons ago, and had it not been for crippling knee injuries, he may well have a record today comparable to his great Portuguese namesake.

The name of Ronaldo is synonymous with topping scoring charts

Cristiano Ronaldo was one of the favourites to be the top scorer in the betting markets at the start of Qatar 2022. Unfortunately for him, Portugal are now out, meaning at the moment vintage names like Olivier Giroud (6/1) and Lionel Messi (3/1) are competing for the top spot in the current World Cup top scorers betting market.

Back in 2002, it was the Brazilian Ronaldo who was the Golden Boot winner, but prior to the competition, he was one of the outsiders to win the accolade due to the fact he had been injured for the majority of the previous four years.

The striker was already a World Cup winner having been a part of the Brazilian squad that was victorious in the USA in 1994. Back then he was an understudy to the established strike duo of Romario and Bebeto.

It wasn't until the 1998 World Cup in France that we got to see the true Ronaldo, and what an impact he had on that competition.

The striker by this time was well established in Europe, having played for PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona, and Inter Milan - and he arrived in France as the most feared player in world football. Back then he had pace, power, and skill, all in equal abundance. He could pick the ball up his own half, and like Maradona back in 1986, was an immediate threat to the opposition's goal.

Ronaldo was also good in the air, he had the proverbial good feet for a big man, and he had the strength to mix it with the most brutally tough central defenders. At this stage of his career, he had the absolute lot.

He finished the 1998 competition with four goals and three assists. He also won player of the competition. But he is best remembered in that tournament for not being originally selected to play in the final, due to having a rumoured convulsive fit hours before the match.

In the end, the striker played but had little impact. Brazil went on to lose to France, who won their first-ever World Cup with a 3-0 win.

Redemption for Ronaldo

Four years later, Ronaldo would have his day. He turned up in South Korea and Japan with little to no expectations, the exact opposite of four years previous. But what followed was remarkable.

Even though he looked a shadow of the player he was four years previous, Ronaldo was still good enough to score eight goals, including two in the final against Germany, winning the 2002 Golden Boot and the World Cup. And this after barely kicking a ball for the best part of four years.

What a performance. The mind boggles as to what this guy could have achieved were it not for all his injuries.