In my second World Cup special, I had a look at getting the best out of a player who will go down in history as one of the greatest. Following on from France and Pogba, I am staying in Europe, here is my tactical look at Portugal and their star man, Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Portuguese FA wants Quarter Final and the bookies don’t fancy us much either so – despite being European Champions – this switches focus from a team objective to an individual goal. It’s what Cristiano would have wanted.

  • Primary Objective – to be tournament best player / top scorer (since 1990 average is 6 goals)
  • Secondary Objective – to be Portugal’s all-time WC top scorer (currently Eusebio 9 goals in 6 games)
  • Additional Bonus – beat Messi in WC Goals – currently, Messi has 5 WC goals

It is a statistical curiosity that Ronaldo currently has only 3 WC Goals from 13 games – over 3 tournaments – 2006, 2010 and 2014. We know CR7 is a phenomenal goalscoring record at Real Madrid. However look at this table of International Games and Goals to see that the great man has underachieved on the world’s biggest stage.

Caps and goals by competition

Competition Caps Goals Goal:Game Ratio
Friendlies 46 17 0.36
UEFA Euro qualifying 27 20 0.74
UEFA Euro Finals 21 9 0.42
FIFA World Cup qualification 38 30 0.79
FIFA World Cup Finals 13 3 0.23
FIFA Confederations Cup Finals 4 2 0.5
Total 149 81 0.54


But what is Ronaldo’s best role for Portugal?

Find out about Luka Modric here.

Player Scout in FM /  Best role for individual

In real life, Ronaldo has developed from a young tricky winger at Man Utd through dynamic, driving attacking midfielder to the goal-scoring machine he is now at Real Madrid. His determination and physicality have got better as he has got older.

Looking at his attributes in FM18, they are overall as impressive as you would expect from an elite player. However a couple of warning signs there. Some that I ignored to my detriment in my initial planning.

With Ronaldo’s goals tally rattling around my brain and visions of his impressive jumping and heading ability clouding my judgement I envisioned using CR7 as a Poacher. A modern, metrosexual Ally McCoist if you will.

However, if you look closely at those 3 important poacher specific attributes  – finishing, off the ball, composure – it is the last of these that Cristiano falls over with. A 14 is really good but not elite level.

In fact, the answer to his best role was staring me in the face. His attributes are overall impressive. You may even say complete. He looks like a Complete Forward….

Lesson Learned: Be careful that your real life head doesn’t overrule your Football Manager head.

Team Context

Portugal are the reigning European Champions but that was a massive overachievement. Looking at the National Pool of talent shows they have some fantastic attacking talent but my main concern is with their defence. I can see this being a real weakness to the team. This issue is only compounded when Nelson Semedo, Barcelona’s right wing back and a player I loved with FM17 Benfica save, is ruled out of the World Cup with a bad injury. Cedric is his replacement but he is miles behind Semedo. Central Defence looks poor and I reluctantly call back Pepe to add a bit more steel there.

Midfield again has a host of talent to choose from and left me with a headache over the final squad. In the end, I left Ruben Neves, William Carvahal and Renato Sanches at home. Preferring to go with Adrien Silva, Joao Mario, Andre Gomes and Danilo.

The cream of the squad are the forwards. I am reunited with another FM17 favourite of mine, Goncalvo Guedes, now of PSG’s bench. With Bernado Silva, Diego Jota, and evergreen Nani we have no shortage of wingers – although all of them to a tee want to “Cut inside”. Only speed demon Gelson Martins is keen to go outside and cross the ball. Behind Ronaldo, Andre Silva is stand out centre forward as the best of the rest.

Set up in FM Tactics

An Aside – Plan A. Poacher When It All Goes Wrong

So my initial plan was to have Ronaldo playing at the top of a 4-2-3-1 wide. The attacking strategy was to have the 3 players in AM band (Guedes, Silva, Martins) creating different attack options with the flexibility of:

  • going wide to get crosses in to take advantage of Cristiano’s heading ability or
  • move inside, with support from CMA behind, to overload the golden zone around AMC and look to feed the ball into the movement of Ronaldo.

The problem with Plan A was that the tactic was too top heavy and left a weak defence far too exposed. We lost too many goals against a very fired up Morrocco team that left too much to do against Spain who sucker punched us 1-0. Result – out in the group stages.

Plan B.

When you go back to the drawing board in Football Manager it is important not to chuck the baby out with the bath water. In my case here, I was sure the best way to win games with Portugal and get the best out of Ronaldo was still to use the potent attacking threat as described in Plan A but rein in the tactic to make it more solid.

Also, this was all about making Cristiano the main man. He’s the talisman of the team and the aim is to make sure he is regarded as the GOAT.

Therefore everyone was pulled back into the defensive position I was looking for into a 4-1-4-1 that leaves CR7 centre stage with no one around him to sully the photographs.

The DMC will guard the defence, giving scope for Cedric to use his pace up the right flank as WB. The right WM will tuck in a bit – again opening up space for Soares to get further forward.

The Mezzala will push forward alongside the left Winger whereas his CM partner will support attacks but be positioned further back to try to prevent quick counter attacks.
Ronaldo is Complete Forward on Support – he will look to do everything – drop deep, go wide, hold up the ball for support or drive forward himself.

Playing the World Cup

So how did we do? Not bad actually 😉

We won but that’s enough about the team – what we really want to know was how did Ronaldo do?

With England knocking out Germany in the Quater Final, you might want to try doing better by properly using Thomas Muller.

Ronaldo World Cup Highlight Reels

Point 1 – Ronaldo’s heading ability

This goal from the 2-0 defeat of England in the Semi Final was mirrored elsewhere in the tournament and highlights exactly how I wanted to take advantage of Ronaldo’s heading ability especially with crossing being so OP in FM18.

Point 2 – Ronaldo the showman (part 1)

This free kick against Morocco in the Group Stages at 0-0 has it all. The cheeky back heel flick to take it, before the magnificent long range finish to score the opener. It is magnificent.

Point 3 – Ronaldo the showman (part 2)

World Cup Final? Check.

Biggest Televised Sporting Event? Check.

Hair looking good? Check.

Pressure is no barrier to skill as you can see with this sensational assist against Spain in the final no less.

Point 4 – Ronaldo the Reputation

Cristiano’s large physical frame and his even larger ego must have a psychological effect on opposition players. Look what CR7’s chasing down does to poor Mussachio or Argentina

Point 5 – Ronaldo the Ruthless

The Russia game should never have to go to Extra Time – a 2 goal lead thrown away through carelessness. Although we were 3-2 up when Russian goalkeeper Akinfeev got injured with no subs left to play, it didn’t stop Ronaldo showing no mercy to the poor sap in goals.

So in conclusion

Let’s recall our aims set out at the start and see how Ronaldo did

Primary Objective – to be tournament best player / top scorer

Tick! Cristiano was named Best Player of the 2018 World Cup and was joint Top Scorer although Higuain took the Golden Boot on a technicality.

Secondary Objective – to be Portugal’s all-time WC top scorer

Tick! With 8 goals, Ronaldo now has 11 World Cup Finals goals beating Eusebio’s 9.

Additional Bonus – beat Messi in WC Goals

Tick! Messi added 2 goals in this World Cup to total 7 WC goals.

In this FM Virtual World, Cristiano Ronaldo must now be considered the Greatest Of All Time.