JOHANNESBURG, June 30 – Superstars have failed to deliver goals at the World Cup with Kaka, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney managing just one between them.
And that came softly to Ronaldo three minutes from full-time in Cape Town as Portugal tore hapless North Korea to shreds in the most one-sided match of the tournament.
Rooney flew home with his disgraced England team-mates after failing to score in four matches and maintaining a sad record of never netting at the showcase of international football.
Brazil midfielder Kaka came to South Africa after months of thigh-injury concerns and instead of celebrating his goals was sent off against the Ivory Coast.
Argentina coach Diego Maradona has jumped to the defence of Messi, who has done just about everything except score as his team stormed into the last eight with a 10-goal haul.
"As soon as Messi gets the ball they want to kick him. It is a scandal," complained 1986 World Cup winner Maradona who knows a thing or two about rough treatment from his own playing days.
Rooney and Ronaldo have been the biggest disappointments with Portugal also out of contention after losing an Iberian derby against Spain in Cape Town to a David Villa goal.
"I feel a broken man, disconsolate, frustrated and an unimaginable sadness," confessed the Portuguese captain after a match in which his continuous appeals for free kicks were ignored.
Ronaldo showed little of the menace Real Madrid valued at 94 million euros when they lured him from Manchester United with his once lethal free kicks barely troubling Spain.
He also offered little encouragement to team-mates after they fell behind and appeared so engrossed in his personal misery that lifting sinking morale was not a priority.
But Ronaldo was not conceding a millimetre in post-match comments: "I know I am the captain of Portugal and I have always assumed and will assume my responsibilities," he snapped.
Veteran England goalkeeper David James sprang to the defence of Rooney, who cut a forlorn figure throughout his stay in Africa and made virtually no impact on the second round clash with arch rivals Germany.
"You have to credit the opposition. Teams like Germany knew how good Wayne was and did all they could to stop him," said the senior citizen of the Three Lions squad.
"Wayne was not given freedom and there were times when he had to come deep in order to pick up the ball and I always say that if he has to do that then he is not getting any joy up front."
Brazil coach Dunga wants goals from Kaka not yellow and red cards with another caution against Chile placing him in danger of a further suspension with the quarter-finals kicking off Friday.
"The technical footballers are being punished at this World Cup and those who commit fouls are not," moaned 1994 World Cup-winning captain and midfield ‘enforcer’ Dunga.
Germany are worried Messi will finally rediscover a scoring touch that drives La Liga rivals of Barcelona to despair when the countries renew one of the great World Cup rivalries Saturday.
"There is no way one footballer can keep him at bay for the full 90 minutes. It will be a team effort and we may have to put several players on him," confessed midfielder Sami Khedira.