Cristiano Ronaldo believes he can fulfil his dream by inspiring Portugal to a first major trophy after the Real Madrid forward equalled Michel Platini’s goalscoring record in the European Championship finals to knock out Wales.
Ronaldo’s second-half header provided his ninth goal in the finals of this competition – he is the only player to have scored in four European tournaments having first featured as a teenager in 2004 – to equal Platini’s tally, with the forward now targeting further reward in Sunday’s final at the Stade de France. Either Germany or the hosts await in Saint-Denis, with the 31-year-old intent upon inspiring his team to success.
“Record-breaking is something very nice,” said the Portugal captain. “I have broken many records before and I am still breaking records for club and country. But this all comes naturally and the crucial thing was to reach the final, for the coaching staff and all my team-mates. I am very happy and I am very proud of all my team-mates. We are now so close. I’ve always dreamed of winning something for Portugal and now it’s just one step away. Dreaming is free, so let’s keep dreaming.
“Euro 2004 was special. I was 18 and that was my first final. My debut. But now 12 years have gone by and we’re there again. I’m very proud of that. But I am also very confident and I believe that all these boys deserve it, I deserve it, Portugal deserves it, the fans deserve it – every single Portuguese person deserves it. They’ve been amazing supporters. We’ve yet to win anything, but it’s the final. I don’t think many people thought that Portugal would make it to that point, but we are there. That fills me with pride.
“Now we have to get ready for Sunday and we want to make this dream come true. I believe that we’ll win. With a lot of work, humility and the spirit of self-sacrifice, which I have always shown in my career, these sorts of things are doable.”
The coach, Fernando Santos, had been a pundit on Portuguese television for the final of Euro 2004 in Lisbon, when Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side succumbed 1-0 to Greece. The 61-year-old hailed his team’s progress at this tournament as the greatest achievement of a managerial career that has spanned 28 years. “Two years ago, when I took over, we played at Stade de France in a friendly [which was lost 2-1] and we set ourselves the goal to get back there, to Saint-Denis, for the final of Euro 2016,” he said. “We’ve achieved that.
“We know we’re not the best team in the world, but we also know we’re no pushovers. We are stronger, more solid, more united, and now we have a chance. When I reached the first final in my career, somebody said to me: ‘Finals are not about playing. They’re about winning.’ That is what we must do.”
“We are a team, a unit, and that’s how we have been playing and acting since the beginning,” added Ronaldo. “I’ve been trying to help as much as I can, not just by scoring but by fighting, scrapping and helping with defence. I’ve given it my all so, like the manager says, there has been great teamwork. The players have been fighting very hard. We believe everything is possible in football. Personally, I believed in my heart we’d go far at the Euros. Maybe it didn’t start off as well as we wanted, but this is not a 100m dash. This is a marathon.”
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