Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo ranks Portugal’s qualification for the FIFA World Cup as the highlight of his stunning 2013.
Ronaldo was recognised as the best player on the planet at a star-studded gala in Zurich on Monday, having scored 69 goals for club and country in the previous calendar year.
Asked by FIFA to pick out a single moment in 2013 that gave him particular pleasure, the Real Madrid forward nominated the 4-2 play-off victory over Sweden that secured Portugal’s place at Brazil 2014.
Ronaldo was central to that success, scoring the only goal in the first leg in Lisbon before taking centre stage with a sensational hat-trick in Stockholm.
The 28-year-old is now hopeful he and his countrymen can make an impact at the finals later this year.
Ronaldo told FIFA’s official website: “Qualification for the World Cup. I’d say that was what I remember most and was the most emotional thing (in 2013).
“We are hoping to have a good World Cup, but you mustn’t forget we had a very difficult time in qualifying and then had to face Sweden in the play-offs – two games which turned out to be extremely complicated.
“Of course the World Cup will be a completely different challenge and we’ll prepare for it differently too.
“We were all really keen to get there, particularly because it’s being played in Brazil, due to the culture over there and the fact it’s the country where the game is played most.
“For all those reasons it’s an honour, though we know it’s going to be an extremely tough competition. Our priority is getting through the group phase and then we’ll see what happens.”
Prior to the World Cup finals, Ronaldo will aim to help Real end their quest to be crowned European champions for a 10th time.
The Spanish giants are perennially among the favourites for the UEFA Champions League, but have not won the competition since 2002.
“It does generate some pressure, yes, but it also creates excitement too,” said Ronaldo of Real’s bid to claim a 10th crown.
“Real Madrid are in the hunt for winning the Champions League every year, which is an extremely important competition and one all the teams involved in want to win.
“Let’s see if luck goes our way this year and we can claim La Decima, which is what we all want.”