Portugal’s Euro exit likely to herald Cristiano Ronaldo’s international retirement

Portugal lost 5-3 to France on penalties in their quarter-final after a goalless stalemate in which Ronaldo missed a glaring chance in extra time but converted one of the kicks in the shootout.

Portugal's Euro exit likely to herald Cristiano Ronaldo's international retirement

Portugal coach Roberto Martinez consoles Cristiano Ronaldo after losing the penalty shootout.

Credit: Reuters Photo

Hamburg, Germany: Defeat for Portugal at the European Championship on Friday likely brought down the curtain on the extraordinary international career of Cristiano Ronaldo.

While Portugal’s totemic forward has made no pronouncements on his future with the national team, the 39-year-old struggled to revive former glories at the tournament in Germany and departed Euro 2024 without scoring apart from in shootouts.

Portugal lost 5-3 to France on penalties in their quarter-final after a goalless stalemate in which Ronaldo missed a glaring chance in extra time but converted one of the kicks in the shootout.

“It’s too soon and raw after the match to talk about that and there have been no individual decisions made,” coach Roberto Martinez said when asked if it had been Ronaldo’s last game in a Portugal jersey.

There will forever be debates about where he sits among the greatest footballers — in or behind the exulted company of three-times World Cup winner Pele or the extraordinary talent of Diego Maradona or long-time rival Lionel Messi.

All of them won the World Cup, which Ronaldo has not, but in terms of statistics in national team colours the 39-year-old is out there on his own.

Friday’s loss to France at the Volksparkstadion was Ronaldo’s 212th cap, significantly ahead of Messi who won his 185th for Argentina against Ecuador in the Copa America on Thursday.

Ronaldo’s 130 goals for his country are also way out on its own at the head of most scored in international football, with Messi recently moving second on the list with 108.

“Cristiano is in the national team of Portugal because he deserves to be,” Martinez had said earlier in the tournament.

In terms of longevity few can match Ronaldo, who debuted for Portugal in 2003.

He was 18 years-old when he came on at halftime to replace Luis Figo in a friendly against Kazakhstan in front of roughly 8,000 in Chaves.

Days earlier he had signed for Manchester United, convincing manager Alex Ferguson of his potential after tormenting the team’s defence in a pre-season friendly.

By the next year he was a regular for Portugal as they hosted Euro 2004, upset in the final by Greece.

He is the first to play at six European Championships and his 14 goals in 30 matches is also a Euros record. He won the trophy in 2016 when Portugal beat hosts France in the final.

Ronaldo’s tears

Ironically, in Portugal’s Euros triumph Ronaldo went off early in the decider in Paris in tears with a knee injury.

If you add in his goals in Euro qualifying, Ronaldo has scored 55 times in the competition, with Harry Kane next on 29.

At the World Cup, Ronaldo has played 22 times, scoring eight goals, in five tournaments, while Messi has played four times more and has the appearance record.

In the 21 years Ronaldo has played for Portugal, they have not missed out on qualifying for the World Cup, with a semi-final place in 2006 their best return. That year, Ronaldo netted the decisive penalty to beat England in the quarter-finals.

It has been an extraordinary career, highlighted by five Ballon d’Or awards, and it is not over yet … certainly not at club level. Ronaldo top-scored with 35 goals in the Saudi league last season and has another year’s contract at Al Nassr.

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