A total of 68 goals in 57 games - by 11 December - is a phenomenal feat, but the numbers are not the only reason why 2013 has been a landmark year in Cristiano Ronaldo’s spectacular career. Amongst many performances, the memorable night in Sweden when the forward became Portugal’s joint top goalscorer and confirmed his team’s place at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ will also live long in the memory.

After such an incredible year, it is hardly surprising that the Real Madrid player is one of the three finalists for the FIFA Ballon d’Or award. Real Madrid’s top scorer in the 2012/2013 UEFA Champions League, he was the decisive factor in said World Cup qualifying play-off between Portugal and Sweden.

With just over a month to go until the award winner is announced at the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala 2013 in Zurich on 13 January, FIFA.com looks back at three of Cristiano Ronaldo’s greatest moments this year.

Barcelona v Real Madrid: celebration on enemy territory 
26 February 2013
As is so often the case with duels between Real Madrid and Barcelona, the second leg of this year’s Spanish Cup semi-final was no ordinary game. After a 1-1 draw in the first leg at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid, Real travelled to the Camp Nou under intense pressure.

Unfortunately for Barcelona, that is the kind of situation where Ronaldo thrives. He scored the first two goals of a 3-1 victory to spark wild celebrations on the field of his team’s great rivals, as Real made it to the final of the Spanish Cup thanks to another night of inspiration from CR7.

Northern Ireland v Portugal: overtaking a legend in Belfast
6 September 2013
After causing one of the biggest shocks of Brazil 2014 qualifying when they drew 1-1 at the Estadio do Dragao in Porto, Northern Ireland had their eyes on another historic result in Belfast. And although Portugal went ahead with a goal by Bruno Alves, the home team soon stormed back, threatening to put Portugal in an extremely difficult situation in Group F.

Trailing 2-1 after 52 minutes, Portugal had little time to waste. That was when Cristiano Ronaldo took over, scoring his first hat-trick in a Portugal shirt. It was a historic achievement, not just in terms of the result, but also because his three goals meant Ronaldo overtook Eusebio to become the second top goalscorer in Portugal’s history.

Sweden v Portugal: clinching a place in Brazil in style
19 November 2013
Portugal’s presence at the FIFA World Cup was just 90 minutes away. After a 1-0 victory in the first leg of their play-off against Sweden, Portugal travelled to the Friends Arena confident of stamping their passports to Brazil.

Portugal started brightly, before Ronaldo opened the scoring on 50 minutes to seemingly leave the tie as good as over. Not so. Sweden fought back, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring twice in just four minutes to turn the game on its head, leaving the home side just a goal away from snatching the visitors’ place at the World Cup.

Portugal’s hopes were hanging by a thread until, once again, Ronaldo stepped up, scoring two more goals to not only send his team to the World Cup, but to also enter the record books himself. His hat-trick put him level with Pedro Pauleta as Portugal’s all-time top goalscorer with 47 goals, and capped a remarkable year.