KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING: Many footballers, as the threatening mid-30s rush towards them, are tempted to parlay their achievements against the security of a rich last contract. But Cristiano Ronaldo is different. At 36 he remains relentless and ruthless in pursuit of even more goals and trophies and records.
A 19-year career with Sporting, Manchester United, Real Madrid and now Juventus have brought CR7 some 29 international and national club trophies, one European Championship and one Nations League with Portugal (in 2016) and a multiplicity of individual prizes.
So much but not enough. An insatiable appetite drives Ronaldo onward to maintain a level of super fitness which secured his record-breaking 10th and 11th goals in the European Championship finals.
Ronaldo struck twice late in the game as holders Portugal opened their Euro Group F campaign with a 3-0 victory over Hungary in Budapest.
The venue was the Puskas Arena, named in honour of the greatest of Hungarian footballers but also one who remains as much a Real Madrid legend as Ronaldo.
As it stands Ronaldo’s national team tally is now 106 goals in 176 international appearances, only three fewer than Iranian Ali Daei’s 109-goal world men’s record.
His 11 goals in a record five Euro finals are two more than the nine-goal primacy which Ronaldo shared previously with Frenchman Michel Platini.
Yet Hungary, outclassed but never outrun, made him wait almost all the match in front of a 60,000-plus crowd.
Ronaldo’s hunger was evident as early as the fourth minute when he berated Diogo Jota for shooting instead of passing to the better-placed captain.
Jota, similarly, incurred the wrath of Bruno Fernandes in the 40th minute but Ronaldo then had only himself to blame for shooting over the bar when unmarked in front of goal just before the interval.
Portugal carried on after halftime as they had left off. Keeper Peter Gulacsi dived right to deflect a Pepe header from a corner and then dived left to keep out a Bruno Fernandes drive.
Hungary even thought they had taken the lead in the when newly-arrived substitute Szabolcsi Schon raced in from the right to shoot past Rui Patricio only to be denied by VAR and an offside flag.
A relieved Portugal ran back down to the other end and took the lead with a shot from Raphael Guerreiro which was deflected beyond Gulacsi off central defender Orban. Minutes later Orban fouled Rafa Silva and Ronaldo converted the penalty for a second Portuguese goal and a Euro record all of his own.
But records are not enough for Ronaldo. He is always hungry to better his own achievements. Hence in the second minute of stoppage time to danced into space in front of goal to score his own second goal and the holders’ third.
By the way. Ronaldo was registering a 39th appearances at the finals of World Cup and European Championship, overtaking Bastian Schweinsteiger’s 38; he was also now the oldest player to score two or more goals in a Euro finals tie.
All in all, job done.
Hungary: Gulacsi – Botka, Orban, Attila Szalai – Lovrencsics, Kleinheisler (Siger 77), Nagy, Schafer (Nego 65), Fiola – Adam Szalai, Sallai (Schon 77).
Subs: Lang, Kecskes, Cseri, Dibusz, Roland Varga, Kevin Varga, Bogdan, Nikolic, Bolla.
Portugal: Rui Patricio – Nelson Semedo, Ruben Dias, Pepe, Raphael Guerreiro – Danilo Pereira, William Carvalho (Renato Sanches 81), Bruno Fernandes – Bernardo Silva (Rafa Silva 71), Jota (Andre Silva 81), Cristiano Ronaldo.
Subs: Fonte, Joao Moutinho, Andre Silva, Lopes, Neves, Goncalves, Rui Silva, Joao Felix, Sergio Oliveira, Nuno Mendes.
Referee: Cakir (Turkey)