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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Ronaldo on target as Portugal dodge Euro embarrassment

Ronaldo on target as Portugal dodge Euro embarrassment

Publish Date: 11/17/2023
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

As Portugal exited the 2022 World Cup, there was some speculation that their 1-0 defeat at the hands of Morocco would be the last international appearance for the nation’s standout player of modern times. But as we reach the later stages of the qualification campaign for Euro 2024, it’s clear that CR7 feels he has at least one more big tournament in him – and a 100% record in qualifying means that the Portuguese national selection will be present in Germany next summer. Barring injury, that means Ronaldo will be there, too.

Portugal’s path to the finals has not been the hardest: they were drawn alongside Slovakia, Luxembourg, Iceland, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Liechtenstein. They entered Thursday night’s (17 Nov) fixture against Liechtenstein with eight wins from eight games played, 32 goals scored and two conceded. The stage was set for another asymmetric contest with the Iberian side further boosting their scoring record, but anyone who tuned in hoping for a goalfest will have been sorely disappointed.

Portugal flag rippling

Portugal flag

Goalless first half raises concerns

There was scant concern that Portugal could be walking into an upset in Vaduz, as Liechtenstein’s first eight games in Group J had seen them score one goal, a consolation strike in a 2-1 loss in Bosnia. They did not add to that tally against Portugal, but they did manage to walk in at half-time with the scores level. For a side ranked 200th in the world – there are only 207 national teams in the rankings – that was a pretty encouraging 45 minutes. However, their impressive resistance was punctured just a minute into the second half – and it was none other than Ronaldo who opened the scoring.

As Liechtenstein sought to mount a rare attack direct from kick-off, their visitors took possession and broke quickly. Four passes took them from their own penalty area to the edge of the hosts’, and Diogo Jota found Ronaldo. The Al Nassr man shook off two defenders before firing in off the crossbar, and Portugal led 1-0. It was a lead they would not relinquish, and ten minutes later home goalkeeper Benjamin Buchel sprinted from his area to clear a through ball, but was stranded as Joao Cancelo took possession and finished into the empty net. 2-0 was the final score.

Ronaldo extends FIFA records

Ronaldo will, without a doubt, go down as one of the best players ever to play the game, and his international career has covered more than two decades. In that time he has been more or less an ever-present for his country, which has allowed him to set two major records in the red and green of Portugal. The star has now played 204 games for his country, becoming the only player ever to have played more than a double century of games at this level. His opener in Vaduz also means that he has notched 128 goals in those appearances, placing him 19 goals clear of Iran’s Ali Daei as the record goalscorer in international competition.

Since moving to Saudi at the beginning of this year, there has been some doubt over the competitive benefits of playing in the SPL. For what it’s worth, during that time Ronaldo has scored ten goals in nine international appearances. It doesn’t seem that those attacking instincts have been blunted by a move to a “weaker” league, and with a summer tournament likely on the menu for 2024, there will be opportunities for Ronaldo to further augment his records before retirement beckons – whenever that might be.

What next for CR7 and Portugal?

There is one game left in qualifying for Seleção, Sunday against Iceland in Lisbon. This is exactly the kind of game – nothing resting on it for either team, no reason to push it – in which most national team managers would leave out their best players. For Ronaldo, though, every game is a must-play as long as he is fit. You don’t get to 204 international caps by sitting out a dead rubber here and there, so it is to be presumed that he will line up for this one too. Given how steeply Iceland’s form has fallen off since their surprise appearance at the 2018 World Cup, this would seem a decent opportunity for CR7 to add another cap and a goal or two.

Having won their first nine games of Euro 2024 qualifying, Portugal will also, surely, wish to make it ten from ten, and complete their campaign in the same style with which they began it. So – while we can probably expect coach Roberto Martinez to make substitutions early on if his team gets into a winning lead – there should be ample opportunity for Portugal’s most-decorated player to build on a couple of records which he has already padded beyond the point where we can expect them to be beaten any time soon.

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