Former Real Madrid striker Raul believes Cristiano Ronaldo’s exploits during a long club season affected his performances for Portugal at the World Cup.
The Ballon d’Or winner enjoyed a successful campaign at the Bernabeu, scoring 51 goals to help his side to triumphs in the Champions League and Copa del Rey.
Raul was delighted to see his former club succeed this season, but feels the gruelling club calendar ultimately played its part in Ronaldo’s displays in Brazil as he failed to prevent Paulo Bento’s men from crashing out in the group stages.
“It was a sad exit from the World Cup for Cristiano Ronaldo,” the 37-year-old Al Sadd forward wrote in his column for The Times of India.
“Ronaldo had to be at his best for Portugal to snatch a big win against Ghana. He did get a goal, which turned out to be the winner, but that was not enough.
“The World Cup will not see the world's best player beyond the group stage and that is sad.
“Ronaldo was undoubtedly the player of the season, having helped Real Madrid to a 10th European title, scoring 17 goals in 11 Champions League matches, and breaking all records.
“But as we have seen so many times in the last few years, club commitments once again took its toll on a superstar and football's biggest show missed a chance to see him in full flow.”
After England, Italy, Portugal and Spain all crashed out of the tournament early on, European hopes for the tournament are reliant on Belgium, France, Germany and Netherlands.
Despite Les Bleus and Louis van Gaal’s Oranje squad showing the most attacking flair, Raul believes the Belgians and Germans should not be ruled out just because they have been steadier in the early rounds.
He continued: “Portugal’s exit was inevitable. Germany were deserving toppers of the group. They have played to a system that is so typical of them. Solid and unhurried, they have got the job done in every match.
“Of the European teams left in Brazil, the Netherlands and France have shown great attacking flair but Germany have looked very compact and organised.
“With the exception of the game against Ghana when they were rattled by the speed of the Africans, the Germans have looked untroubled by the challenges they have faced so far.
“The game against Portugal was one-sided, and even though they beat USA by the smallest possible margin, their superiority was never in doubt. The Germans have a habit of getting better as the tournament progresses.
“Belgium notched up three wins quietly and in all the games, produced something that took the opponents by surprise.
“Their substitutes have scored, which means they are not dependent on individuals.”
The round of 16 kicks off on Saturday with tournament hosts Brazil facing Chile and Colombia meeting Uruguay as the South American nations take centre stage.