Cristiano Ronaldo will play the second European Championship final of his career this weekend as Portugal look to claim silverware on the international stage for the first time.
After Lionel Messi was on the losing side again as Argentina were beaten in the Copa America final last month, followed by an immediate retirement from international football, Ronaldo has the chance to do what his great rival could never achieve at this level, for all his club success.
Ronaldo was just 19-years-old when he was called up for a senior international tournament for the first time. He went to Euro 2004 off the back of a surprisingly good debut season with Manchester United and probably didn’t expect to play much if at all.
That all changed as the hosts struggled in their opening game against Greece. Ronaldo came off the bench, scored a consolation goal in the 2-1 defeat, and was then firmly in the line-up for the rest of the tournament as Portugal progressed through the rounds to reach a first major final.
The teenage Ronaldo was named in UEFA’s Team of the Tournament for his efforts but the Portuguese were beaten by Greece for a second time, with the underdogs claiming the trophy.
The three-time Ballon d’or winner will probably be glad that it’s not Germany he’ll be facing on Sunday. In the same way that Messi has seen his World Cup dreams ended on three occasions by the Germans, Ronaldo has been dumped out of two tournaments (2008 and 2014) by Die Mannschaft over the last 12 years, as well as losing a third place playoff (2006).
Then again, Ronaldo has been beaten on the biggest stage by France as well, a solitary Zinedine Zidane goal the difference in a tightly fought World Cup semi-final in 2006.
As a nation, Portugal have only beaten France five times in 24 meetings since 1926, and not at all since 1975. Ronaldo has faced them just three times, but he’s lost all of them.
Two further international tournaments have ended for Ronaldo at the hands of Spain, in 2010 and 2012 in the last 16 and semi-finals respectively, both competitions that the all conquering Spanish then went on to win.
Portugal will kick off as underdogs against the host nation in the Stade de France, but Ronaldo has had what has almost felt like divine backing to get this far. Can he do it one more time and finally lay his hands on that elusive international silverware?
Cristiano Ronaldo’s International Tournament Record:
|Tournament||Stage Reached||Eliminated By|
|2006 World Cup||Semi-Final||France|
|2010 World Cup||Round of 16||Spain|
|2014 World Cup||Group Stage||Germany, USA|