KEIR RADNEDGE in LYON: Cristiano Ronaldo believes destiny is beckoning yet again but this time in a very particular, home-grown cause.
As he said after setting up Portugal’s 2-0 win over Wales in the Euro 2016 semi-finals here, breaking records and managing new achievements is mere bread and butter for him.
But winning a major prize with Portugal would be something new not only for the man with countless titles, trophies and honours but a journey into a new football hemisphere for the nation. Hence his particular satisfaction in having fired them to the final in scoring the first goal and creating the second for Nani.
Along the way Ronaldo thus equalled Michel Platini’s record of nine goals in Euro finals and became the first to score in four different tournaments.
But that was not, for once, the priority.
Ronaldo, unavoidably named man of the match by old Wales hero Ian Rush who appreciates goal hunger, said: “Breaking records is something I do but here the the most important thing was to reach the final.”
He has been there once before, back in front of Portugal’s own fans in 2004 in Lisbon. On that occasion the home favourites were devastated to lose to the rank outsiders from Greece. Times have changed.
Ronaldo said: “This is different. Back then I was only 18 and that was a first final. Now 12 years have gone by and I’m very proud that in all that time I have always dreamed of winning something important for Portugal.
“I hope it’s our turn now. I’m very confident and I believe all the boys deserve it, I deserve it, the fans deserve it, every single Portuguese at home and abroad deserves it. I dont think many people thought Portugal would make it to the final but we’re there now and that fills me with pride.”
Ronaldo is considered by his critics as an arch egotist but his efforts for his team have been instinting on both the good and bad days of this finals.
He said: “This national team are a unit. That’s how we’ve been playing and acting. I’ve been trying to help as much as I can, not only by scoring but by fighting, scrapping. I’ve given it my all.
“So there’s been great teamwork but also we’ve felt a lot of support from the fans which gives us extra strength and we all believe everything is possible in football.”
Real Madrid’s record-extending 11th triumph in the European Champions League Cup offered Ronaldo further inspiration.
He said: “After winning the Champions League i believed in my heart we’d go far in the Euro. Maybe it didn’t start as well as we wanted but this not a 100m dash but a marathon.
“Now we have to get ready for Sunday. We want to make this dream come true. I’m proud of all my team and now we’re almost there. I have always dreamed of winning something for Portugal so let’s keep dreaming.”
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