CAPE TOWN: Despite having scored only once and produced some peripheral performances in the World Cup group phase, Cristiano Ronaldo managed to be named man of the match three times by public vote.
For the first time in World Cup history, the man of the match is being selected by Internet users and Ronaldo’s global popularity clearly counts for more than his actual accomplishments on the field of play.
Overall, the tournament’s online audience seems split between three alternatives. Either they plumped for a goalscorer or a goalkeeper, and if not, it’s Ronaldo. The Real Madrid forward is the only man to have picked up three awards in three matches.
After the 48 first-round fixtures, four goalkeepers have been honoured (including Nigeria’s Vincent Enyeama twice) but only five outfield players were named man of the match in games in which there were goals but in which they did not score.
The fortunate five? Didier Drogba, Lionel Messi, Park Ji-Sung, Daniel Agger and Wesley Sneijder.
The trophy, a small African drum (djembe), is presented at the end of each match by a fan selected by one of the tournament’s sponsors. The lucky supporter has the right to take a photo and chat to the player.
The award is not much more than a token of appreciation but it can nonetheless ruffle the odd feather.
After his side’s 0-0 draw with Portugal, Brazil coach Dunga said: "If they’ve chosen Cristiano Ronaldo, it’s because they must have seen something. I would have chosen (centre-back) Lucio because of his importance to our team."
Lucio himself observed: "It’s a FIFA thing. We know which players get it and also that in football there is no justice."
FIFA, though, insist there is nothing amiss.
"Overall, we’ve had very few contestable cases," a spokesperson for the organisation told AFP.
Even Ronaldo himself has expressed his surprise at the fans’ voting habits.
His second man of the match award followed Portugal’s 7-0 demolition of North Korea, in which he scored one goal and set up another, but without ever hitting the top of his game.
"Three or four others players deserve it more than me," he said.
"Especially Tiago," to whom he later presented his trophy.