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Ronaldo, Portugal's Catalyst

Natalia Richardson

Updated: Nov 17, 2022 05:47

Cristiano, Portugal's catalyst for leap to the elite

ronaldo

As evidenced by their tournament record, Portugal's national team has gained confidence and stature during the Cristiano Ronaldo era.

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Portugal have not missed a single major tournament over the course of Cristiano Ronaldo's international career

Ronaldo led his country to their first two official titles at senior level

Portugal play Ghana in their opening game at Qatar 2022 and will also face Uruguay and Korea Republic in Group H

Cristiano Ronaldo, who is now 37, has been selected by Portugal for the fifth World Cup of his career. More than merely his nation's all-time greatest scorer, the Manchester United attacker is a valuable asset. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to claim that CR7 is a single turning event in the history of his country's national team.

Between Portugal's first game and the international debut of Madeira's most renowned son, 90 years passed. During that time, the national team only participated in three World Cups and three UEFA EUROs. Portugal's best World Cup performance prior to Ronaldo was their third-place finish in England 1966. The nation's youth teams won back-to-back FIFA U-20 World Cups in 1989 and 1991, marking additional high milestones in its football history. The last prominent Portuguese player before the Ronaldo era, Luis Figo, was also voted FIFA World Player of the Year in 2001.

Though notable, those episodic achievements were not enough by themselves to thrust Portugal into the elite of international football. That all changed when Ronaldo stepped on to the scene in the early 2000s.

How it all began

Since Ronaldo received his first cap against Kazakhstan in a friendly match on August 20, 2003, Portugal has participated in five consecutive World Cups and five consecutive Euros. The Portuguese have transformed from ordinary competitors to legitimate trophy contenders with the No. 7 in their ranks.

The "Ronaldo generation" placed fourth in Germany in 2006, narrowly missing out on matching the nation's best-ever World Cup run. Additionally, in more recent years, they have triumphed in two important tournaments: EURO 2016 and the 2019 UEFA Nations League.

In addition to those team medals, Portugal's great player has earned an unheard-of number of individual honors, including four European Golden Shoes and five FIFA Best FIFA Men's Player honours. In addition, he holds the record for most goals scored in both international and UEFA Champions League history as well as all-time at Real Madrid.

Figo discussed the legacy his successor as Portugal's top player has created in an interview he did last week to celebrate his 50th birthday. Because of their lack of confidence and ambition, Portugal would frequently enter the field before Ronaldo arrived with the intention of merely avoiding defeat, the former Barcelona and Real Madrid player stated.

When CR7 joined the team, everything was transformed. The team no longer felt self-conscious playing against teams like France, whom they lost to in the 2016 EURO final, or the Netherlands, whom they defeated to win that Nations League title, despite representing a nation of only ten million people. A new generation of players who are completely dedicated to the Portugal cause has been made possible thanks in large part to Ronaldo, who has contributed significantly to creating that winning mindset and to boosting the physical fitness of his teammates.

A final farewell?

Ronaldo is currently preparing for what may be his final World Cup alongside those players, including seasoned internationals like central defender Ruben Dias, attacking midfielder Bernardo Silva (both of Manchester City), and midfielder Bruno Fernandes of Manchester United.

On November 24, against Ghana in Doha, the man who transformed Portuguese football will play in his debut match for Qatar 2022. Uruguay and Korea Republic will be Portugal's next Group H rivals.

Portugal before Cristiano Ronaldo

World Cup: Three appearances from 17 editions

EURO: Three appearances from 11 editions

Portugal after Cristiano Ronaldo

World Cup: Five appearances out of five

EURO: Five appearances out of five

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