Cristiano Ronaldo: The highs and lows of an international career like no other

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Cristiano Ronaldo has played his last World Cup match after Portugal’s defeat by Morocco in the Qatar 2022 quarter-finals.

The 37-year-old put a full stop to his career on that global stage on Sunday, saying his “dream ended” with the previous day’s loss, while leaving it open as to whether he will play on for his country in the short term.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has achieved record tallies of 196 caps and 118 goals, and he may have his eye on becoming the first male player to earn 200 caps.

His club future is uncertain following an acrimonious departure from Manchester United, but his place in history is undoubtedly secure.

A record breaker, a history maker, here Stats Perform takes a closer look at the highs and lows of Ronaldo’s Portugal career to date.

Euros bow ends in tears

Ronaldo is the European Championship’s all-time leading scorer (14) and appearance maker (25), while he is the only player to feature at five separate editions.

He made his debut at the tournament when Portugal were the 2004 hosts. The then 18-year-old was named in the team of the tournament, but it ended in tears for him as Portugal suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat to Greece in the final.

Bittersweet Euro 2016 triumph

Despite reaching the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2012, Portugal boasted a generally underwhelming record at major tournaments ahead of the expanded Euro 2016 tournament.

Fernando Santos’ side scraped through the group as one of the best third-placed nations, then required extra time to see off Croatia and Poland – beating the latter on penalties – before overcoming Wales 2-0 in the semi-finals.

Ronaldo scored three goals during the run, but the tears flowed in a final once more as he was forced off injured after 25 minutes following a heavy challenge from France’s Dimitri Payet.

Nevertheless, the animated captain barked out instructions alongside Santos from the touchline as Eder’s extra-time strike gave Portugal their first major tournament victory, before lifting the trophy at the Stade de France.

All-time leading international scorer

Portugal were eliminated from the 2018 World Cup at the last-16 stage by Uruguay, with Ronaldo having hit a brilliant hat-trick in a group-stage draw against Spain. However, the captain was lifting more silverware the following year as his nation landed the inaugural Nations League crown.

More personal success was to follow in September 2021, when a pair of late Ronaldo headers snatched a dramatic 2-1 victory over the Republic of Ireland in World Cup qualifying, taking his international tally to 110 goals – surpassing the long-standing record of Iran’s Ali Daei (109).

A scorer in five World Cups

Ronaldo’s messy departure from Manchester United dominated Portugal’s preparations for this year’s World Cup in Qatar.

However, he made headlines for all the right reasons in his country’s opening match against Ghana, with a successful penalty making him the first player to score in five different editions of the tournament.

Dropped to the bench against Switzerland

Controversy was just around the corner as coach Santos dropped Ronaldo to the bench for Portugal’s last-16 win over Switzerland, having criticised his reaction to being substituted in the previous match against South Korea.

That ended Ronaldo’s run of 31 successive starts at major tournaments for his nation – stretching back to their Euro 2008 clash with the Swiss – while they were subsequently moved to deny reports their captain had threatened to leave Qatar in the aftermath of the decision.

World Cup exit marks end of his dream of global glory

Ronaldo was again on substitute duty for the 2022 quarter-final against Morocco, with Santos sticking by Goncalo Ramos after the Benfica striker hit a hat-trick against Switzerland.

Sent into action early in the second half, with Portugal surprisingly trailing, Ronaldo’s presence in attack could not spur Portugal to find an equaliser.

He had just 10 touches of the ball and only one shot, cutting a frustrated figure and departing the pitch in tears at full time, with Portugal beaten 1-0, ending Ronaldo’s last hopes of lifting the World Cup.

It also meant he again failed to score in a knockout game at the finals. Across his career, Ronaldo drew a blank in all eight of his knockout stage appearances at the World Cup, including the 2006 third place play-off, going 570 minutes without scoring and taking 27 shots in the process.

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