Portugal's record collector Ronaldo 'thinking big' at Euro 2024

Agence France-Presse
Portugal's record collector Ronaldo 'thinking big' at Euro 2024
Portugal's forward Cristiano Ronaldo (center) attends a training session of Portugal's national football team, during the UEFA Euro 2024 European football Championship, at their team base in Harsewinkel, western Germany on June 15, 2024.
Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP

LEIPZIG, Germany – Superstar Portugal striker Cristiano Ronaldo is determined to make more European Championship history this summer.

The veteran forward, 39, says his team "deserve" to win another major international trophy to add to their singular triumph, at Euro 2016.

Portugal kicks off its campaign against Czech Republic in Leipzig on Tuesday, with Ronaldo set to start and appear at a record-extending sixth Euros.

Roberto Martinez's side qualified with a 100% record and should progress with ease from Group F, which also contains Turkey and Georgia.

"I believe this generation deserves to win a competition of this magnitude," Ronaldo told reporters upon arrival in Germany, setting his sights on the Henri Delaunay trophy.

The former Real Madrid hitman triumphed with Portugal in 2016 but limped off injured against France in the final, with Eder firing the team to glory in extra time.

Now plying his trade for immense wealth in Saudi Arabia with Al-Nassr, Ronaldo netted twice against the Republic of Ireland in a tune-up friendly last week to extend his international goals record to 130.

Thus far 14 of those have come at European Championships, making him the competition's all-time top scorer ahead of France great Michel Platini on nine.

Ronaldo first appeared at the tournament in 2004 on home soil, scoring against eventual winners Greece on his Euros debut, and he has also struck in every edition since.

The forward has 25 appearances at the finals, missing only one game at the tournament on the five occasions he has been selected as part of Portugal's squad.

If Ronaldo nets in Germany he will become the oldest ever Euros goalscorer, with the current record set by Austria's Ivica Vastic in 2008, scoring at 38 years and 257 days old.

"I enjoy football, records are a consequence, so for me it's not a target, because I think they come naturally," said Ronaldo.

"I'm happy to have a sixth European Championship and it's about enjoying it in the best way, playing well, making sure the team can win, trying to give my all and enjoying it."

'Tingling in the stomach'

Many believed Ronaldo's time was finally up on the international stage when he was dropped for the last two matches of Portugal's 2022 World Cup campaign after failing to score from open play in the three group games.

However, Martinez has stuck by the five-time Ballon d'Or winner. Ronaldo started every qualifier he was available for, scoring eight goals in the process.

Despite his long and storied international career, Ronaldo said he still suffers with nerves after a men's record 207 caps for his country.

"There's always that tingling in the stomach, especially the day before the game, but that's normal, that's part of it and I'm glad I feel it, because when I don't feel it, it's better to give up and stop," said the forward.

"I still feel quite motivated, it's a different competition and we're all prepared."

Ronaldo's ambition is fuel for his teammates to thrive on.

"Knowing Cristiano, he'll always think big, and we'll keep up with him," Manchester United defender Diogo Dalot told a news conference Saturday.

"He's the one who's won the most among us... if we all realize that we have to go step by step, we can go far and I'm confident of that."

While Portugal is among the favorites to lift the trophy, the Czech Republic have not gone beyond the quarterfinals for 20 years.

Like their opponents the Czechs have lifted the trophy on one occasion — in 1976 as Czechoslovakia.

A three-man defense with two wing-backs led by Slavia Prague's Tomas Holes must find a way to stop Ronaldo if they are to start strongly.

However few sides have managed that since Portugal's talisman took the stage two decades ago.

One of the few challenges left for Ronaldo at the tournament is to score a hat-trick, last achieved by Spain's David Villa in 2008.

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