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Ronaldo as hungry as ever as Portugal set sights on second European crown

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 12 Jun 2024

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Cristiano Ronaldo will head into his record sixth European Championship as hungry as his first as he targets a dream second title with Portugal.

The 39-year-old scored 10 goals in Euro 2024 qualifying – only Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku (14) had more – as Portugal cruised to the finals.

Ronaldo is no longer a guaranteed starter under Roberto Martinez, but he continues to show his importance for his country when called upon.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner struck twice in Tuesday’s 3-0 friendly win over Republic of Ireland – his 34th brace at international level.

And heading into what could be his final major tournament for 2016 winners Portugal, Ronaldo is relishing the chance to go out on a high.

“For me, playing for the national team is a passion, a love,” Ronaldo is quoted as saying by Record.

“Any game is special. A European Championship is special. It will be my sixth, which is also a record.

“Playing in 2004, when I made my debut, or playing today, the feeling is always one of pride and passion. It doesn’t get any better than this.

“The thought has to be [winning the tournament]. We have to be positive and take it step by step.

“Dreaming is free and this team has the talent to dream. Nothing can be achieved without work. We have to work and fight.”

Ronaldo has found the net for Portugal in all 21 calendar years since making his senior debut in 2004, scoring 130 goals in 270 appearances.

The first of his double against Ireland was an unstoppable effort into the top corner, which he rates as one of his finest with his left foot.

“I need to rewind, but with the left foot it must be at the top,” he said. “The most important thing is that the team played well.

“The objective was to win to give confidence. Whoever came on gave a good response, so I’m very happy with the result.”

Portugal have won five of their last nine meetings with managerless Republic of Ireland, losing just once and drawing three times.

The Selecao head into their Group F opener with Czech Republic on a run of mixed form, having won three and lost two games in 2024.

Ronaldo played no part in the 2-1 loss to Croatia last week, while his place in the starting line-up against Czech Republic is far from certain.

However, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner is happy to put the team first and respect whatever decision Martinez makes.

“I knew I was going to rest against Croatia. I only started training on the sixth and I was preparing for today’s game,” he said.

“The most important is the game on the 18th [vs Czech Republic] – we want to start the Euros in the best possible way.

“I’m prepared in the best way. I’m 100 per cent a professional – this is my life. I dedicate myself to giving 100 per cent, not 80 or 90.

“I’m prepared to help the country. It’s about respecting the decisions – play or don’t play. Those who play give a good response.”

Joao Felix was also on target in the win over Republic of Ireland – his first goal in his last five appearances for Portugal and his eighth overall.

Martinez’s men follow up their clash with Czech Republic in Leipzig with games against Turkiye and Georgia.

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