Sochi: Cristiano Ronaldo (nickname CR7) will launch his latest and probably last attempt to crown his career with a World Cup winner’s medal when European champions Portugal face neighbours Spain in their opening World Cup game here Friday.
The 33-year-old will lock horns with six of his Real Madrid teammates as the Spaniards attempt to shrug off the shock sacking of coach Julen Lopetegui.
But now, amid all that, Ronaldo’s focus is on the World Cup, the one major honour still missing from his trophy cabinet.
Ronaldo is 33 now, still in fantastic physical condition and the reigning Ballon d’Or winner. He can probably play on for as long as he wants, but it is hard to imagine him returning for a fifth World Cup in Qatar in 2022.
Ronaldo is our captain, he sets an example for us and is advising us younger players and sharing his experience”
If he is to cap his career with a World Cup winner’s medal, then now is his time, and what better way to start than by inspiring Portugal to victory over their neighbours and put themselves in pole position in Group B.
“Of course Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player in the world at the moment and he will be the top player at this World Cup. There are no words to describe him,” said admiring teammate Joao Mario at Portugal’s base near Moscow.
Ronaldo was playing the last time Portugal beat their rivals in a major tournament, winning 1-0 to eliminate Spain in the group stage at Euro 2004. He was just 19 then, and has gone on to become his country’s leading scorer with 81 international goals.
He won his 150th cap in the recent friendly against Algeria. And yet he has never quite managed to replicate his club form on the major tournament stage.
At the World Cup so far, Ronaldo has managed just three goals in three tournaments: a penalty against Iran in 2006; one against North Korea in 2010, and one against Ghana in 2014.
This is his last chance for redemption on the biggest stage of football.
3-No of goals by Ronaldo in World Cup
3-No of World Cups played
81-No of international goals scored
150-Matches for Portugal