- Portugal and star captain Cristiano Ronaldo exit in Round of 16
- Ronaldo set several several goalscoring benchmarks in Russia
- Star discusses Portugal’s immediate future
By Raquel Branco with Portugal
Cristiano Ronaldo made a supercharged start to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ and was widely expected to kick on and be the star of the tournament.
Four goals in Portugal’s opening two matches put him out front as the highest scorer in the competition, until, that is, he missed a penalty against Iran, at which point his chances of returning to the top of the scoring charts began to wane.
“I’m happy, and I’m leaving here content because things went pretty well in general,” said Ronaldo after his side’s last-16 defeat to Uruguay. “We’re going out with heads held high and the Portugal team will continue to win things.”
Now 33, the Portugal captain set a string of new records and milestones at Russia 2018. Aside from winning his 150th cap, he also briefly became his country’s oldest goalscorer – a record that Quaresma and then Pepe eclipsed.
He also scored the fastest goal at the tournament so far, struck its first hat-trick, and, just for good measure, has now scored more goals in national team football than any other player.
Despite all those records, the skipper preferred to focus on the team: “It’s not the time to talk about the future of the players, the coaches, and the position the side is in. I’m absolutely convinced that the national team will continue to be one of the best in the world.”
The question now is, will Ronaldo be running out at Qatar 2022, when he will be 37? Whatever the future may bring, there can be no doubting the legacy he has created in the national team.
“We’ve got some great players and a tremendous squad, a young group of players with real ambition to go out and succeed,” he said. “That’s why I’m confident and happy, because I know that the national team will always be as strong as it can be.”
As he took his leave of the tournament, Cristiano was in no doubt that Portugal had done the very best they could: “Generally speaking, we can be proud of our efforts.
“We gave it our best shot and the team played well. As the captain, I’m proud of the players, the coaching team, the staff, and all the people who worked with the group to make sure everything went well.”
The defeat to Uruguay meant Portugal repeated their last-16 exit at South Africa 2010, a performance well short of their fourth place at Germany 2006 and their best ever finish of third at England 1966.
Anything can happen in a knockout match, and though Portugal performed well against the Uruguayans and could have emerged winners, Ronaldo was in sporting mood: “I’d like to congratulate Uruguay, who scored twice, but I’d also like to praise Portugal for what they did.
“To my mind, Portugal played better than Uruguay. We had chances but that’s football for you: the team that scores more goals wins, which is why Uruguay are celebrating.”