EURO 2024: “Thinking big” – Ronaldo’s European Championship mission

EURO 2024: “Thinking big” – Ronaldo’s European Championship mission

Is the Ronaldo show coming now? Portugal’s superstar wants to win the title again. A lot depends on a good start to the tournament. And on someone who wants to take Bayer’s momentum from the Bundesliga with him.

For Cristiano Ronaldo, the only thing that counts at his record-breaking European Championship is the title. The 39-year-old Portuguese superstar’s teammates know that too.

“He always thinks big and we want to support him because he is our captain,” assured Manchester United defender Diogo Dalot. “He is an inspiration, he shows us that everything is possible,” emphasized fellow Manchester City player Rúben Dias in Leipzig: “He is our captain and we will go with him to the end.”

An opening win in Leipzig against the Czech Republic, including Bayer striker Patrik Schick, who was top scorer at the 2021 European Championship together with Ronaldo, is a must for Ronaldo’s big mission. It will be his sixth European Championship – no one has managed that many before him – and probably his last.

As with the first one, he now feels “this butterflies in his stomach, especially the day before the game. I’m glad I feel it. If I don’t feel it, it’s better to give up and quit.” But he’s not thinking about that yet.

Group phase just as a prelude?

The fact that Portugal is the last of the favorites to start the tournament in the last game of the first group round is also causing impatience in the posh European Championship quarters with a reunion effect on the edge of the Teutoburg Forest. “When you are one of the last teams to enter, the fear is a bit greater, you want to get going, you want to play,” said Dalot.

On Saturday they play Turkey in Dortmund, and four days later they play Georgia in Gelsenkirchen. For a team like the Portuguese, who qualified for the European Championship without a blemish with ten wins in ten games, Group F should only be the prelude. And even more so for a team with Ronaldo’s demands.

But the Czechs don’t want to play along. “We want to neutralize Ronaldo. Our players will remember this game for the rest of their lives if they play successfully,” said coach Ivan Hasek at a press conference in the Leipzig stadium on Monday.

“We all know Ronaldo’s qualities, especially when he has space, then he will score a goal. So we can’t give him any space. We have to double up on the defense there,” said captain Tomas Soucek, who for his part feels well and ready to play again in time.

Ronaldo is not finished with the records yet

In 2004, at his first European Championship, which was even held at home, Otto Rehhagel’s surprise Greek team prevented Ronaldo from winning his first European Championship. In 2016, injured, he led the team to the title in the final against the then hosts France from the sidelines. Ronaldo has played 25 of his 207 international matches at European Championships – both numbers are records in world football. The same goes for his 14 goals at European Championships and his 130 goals in total. The list goes on almost indefinitely.

But numbers are one thing, emotions are another. And determination is what Ronaldo still brings with him. He reacted in his own way to the doubts about his performance since his huge move to the Saudi Arabian league: in the last European Championship test, he led his team to a 3-0 victory against Ireland with a brace. 44 goals in 45 competitive matches in his new adopted football home are nothing to be sniffed at, and the fact that he cried bitterly when he lost the cup final was further evidence of the ambition of the five-time World Footballer, even at his age.

What worked in 2006 should also work in 2024

And the hype he still triggers became clear when the Portuguese delegation arrived, when thousands of fans made a pilgrimage to the European Championship headquarters and wanted to capture every moment on their smartphones – streakers during training included. The fact that Ronaldo already knows both the hotel and the training grounds is also part of CR7’s 2024 European Championship story: in 2006, when they finished fourth at the World Cup, the team stayed in the same hotel with Ronaldo, who was 18 years younger at the time.

A good omen? What is clear is that the current team is extremely solid and functions as such. Roberto Martínez, a 50-year-old Spaniard with playing and coaching experience, especially on the British Isles, has been in charge of the team since January 2023. Of the 15 games under his leadership since then, 13 have ended in victory for Portugal and two have ended in defeat.

Pepe is also on the verge of breaking a European Championship record

“In the first game against Liechtenstein (4-0) I saw it at half-time,” said Martínez in a UEFA interview before the European Championship kick-off, referring to his debut as Portugal coach. “At that moment I realised that the team was capable of achieving great things.”

dpa

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