Ronaldo relishing record-breaking campaign after Portugal send Wales home
Lee Gormley | July 7, 2016
Ronaldo breaks further records
Wales’ gallant Euro 2016 run came to an end at the hands of an impressive Portugal side in Decines, as Cristiano Ronaldo inspired the Navigators to a 2-0 victory, booking their place in Sunday’s final showdown.
On a night dubbed the battle between Real Madrid stars Gareth Bale and Ronaldo, it was the latter who stole the headlines once again, as the Portugal skipper continues to break records and further cement his status as one of the sport’s all-time greats.
Ronaldo, now 7/2 with Coral to finish top scorer in France, opened proceedings against the Dragons with a thumping header after 50 minutes and assisted Nani’s second, with his latest goal seeing him equal Michel Platini’s all-time European Championship scorer record of nine strikes.
It took Portugal’s star man 20 competition appearances to reach the tally, while tainted former France midfielder Platini achieved this in just five, after previously bagging a Group F brace over Hungary to edge closer to moving top of the standings.
Record after record for Portugal skipper
Few would have predicted Portugal’s path to the final this summer after finishing third in their group behind Hungary and Iceland, while they hadn’t won a game inside 90 minutes before beating Wales, but Ronaldo and co have excelled on French soil.
The skipper not only levelled Platini’s record, but during these Euro finals he has also become the first player to score in four different Championships (2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016), his nation’s highest competition goalscorer and is the only person to have reached three semi-finals.
Ronaldo’s outing against Hungary also saw him record a 17th appearance in the European Championship, more than any other player ever in history, with the Welsh encounter having taken him up to 20 showings.
The Los Blancos ace has now reached a trio of goals in his bid to clinch the Golden Boot, having also now become the first man to score three or more times in two Euro finals, and he outlined his delight for both personal and team achievements.
“Record-breaking is something very nice,” he stated. “I have broken many records before and I am still breaking records for club and country, but this all comes naturally and the crucial thing was to reach the final.
“Dreaming is free so let’s keep dreaming”
“I am very happy and I am very proud of all my teammates. Me and the boys have always dreamt of being there. Now it’s almost there.
“I’ve always dreamt of winning something for Portugal and now it’s just one step away. Dreaming is free so let’s keep dreaming.”
Ronaldo has exuded leadership in this campaign, highlighted by his calls for teammates to step up and take penalties in the shootout win over Poland, while his compassion towards clubmates Luka Modric and Bale after progressing was a redressing blow to his supposed selfish nature.
“I congratulated them [Wales] on their run,” Ronaldo stated, having embraced Bale after the full-time whistle. “They had an amazing run. They were the shining star here, the revelation team. I wished them good luck and as for the rest I would rather not say.”
Portugal have enjoyed an impressive run in this and previous Euro finals, having reached the quarter-final and beyond successively since 1996, including two semi-finals (2000, 2012) and Sunday is set to be their second final in 12 years.
Ronaldo hopes to finally end trophy wait
Ronaldo has been at the forefront of those solid campaigns since 2004, when he helped a star-studded Portugal outfit, featuring Luis Figo and Deco among others, reach the final on home soil, only to be outdone by surprise package Greece in their own backyard.
“This is different,” Ronaldo said, comparing this campaign to Euro 2004. “I was 18, that was my first final. My debut. Now 12 years have gone by and now we are going to play another final. I am very proud of that.
“I have always dreamed of winning for Portugal, I hope it is our turn now. I am very confident and I believe that all these boys deserve it. I deserve it, Portugal deserves it, the fans deserve it – every single Portuguese person deserves it. They’ve been amazing supporters.
“We’ve yet to win anything but it’s the final. I don’t think many people thought that Portugal would make it to the final, but we are there.
“That fills me with pride, I am very happy. Now we have to get ready for Sunday and we want to make this dream true,” added Ronaldo, who is 11/4 favourite for Player of the Tournament.
Fernando Santos’ side are 13/8 to finally end the nation’s wait for a major international trophy, and they may not get a better chance with talisman Ronaldo now 31 years of age.
The record-breaking marksman has outlined a major trophy with Portugal as his “dream goal” in an already illustrious career, and that could soon become a reality on Sunday night at the Stade de France.