Roberto Martinez believes Cristiano Ronaldo’s experience and commitment is crucial to Portugal’s new cycle.
Ronaldo became the most-capped men’s player of all time when he took to the field in Lisbon on Thursday for his 197th Portugal appearance.
The 38-year-old marked the occasion with two goals, scoring from the penalty spot before lashing in a free-kick to complete a 4-0 rout over Liechtenstein in Euro 2024 qualifying Group J.
Joao Cancelo put Portugal ahead early on and Bernardo Silva netted shortly after half-time, with Martinez’s tenure getting off to the simplest of starts.
Ronaldo was dropped to the bench by previous coach Fernando Santos for Portugal’s World Cup knock-out games, but Martinez wanted to get the five-time Ballon d’Or winner into his starting XI.
“It’s a new cycle,” Martinez told Portuguese media outlets.
“It’s important for a player to show commitment and [to know] that we can use his experience, and Cristiano shows that.”
@Cristiano #VesteABandeira #WearTheFlag pic.twitter.com/J6HDQ6XrMm
— Portugal (@selecaoportugal) March 23, 2023
Posting on social media, Ronaldo expressed his pride at sending yet another record tumbling.
“Such good feelings to play and score again for our national team, in a special stadium for me,” Ronaldo wrote. “Proud to be the [most-capped] international player ever.”
Reflecting on his team’s dominant display, in which Portugal had 35 attempts and accumulated an expected goals (xG) of 3.9 to Liechtenstein’s 0.03, Martinez said: “We have to enjoy situations like this.
“I realised that when you play for Portugal it’s special. The players follow that line, it was a step forward to prepare for the next game.
“Of course it’s an opportunity for me to get to know the players, the interaction, see how to take better advantage of the qualities. But I’m left with the attitude and willingness to work. I’m very proud of the result.”
Portugal continue their qualification campaign against Luxembourg on Sunday.
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