On the day of Portugal’s crucial World Cup play-off final against North Macedonia, Manchester United forward Cristiano Ronaldo appeared bemused when his international future was brought up.
The prolific marksman is totally focused on preventing his country from following in the footsteps of European winners Italy by defeating the underdogs and securing a spot in the finals in Qatar later this year.
Following a 3-1 victory over Turkey last week, Tuesday’s match at the Estadio do Dragao offers Ronaldo the chance to reach his sixth World Cup and add to his seven goals on the grandest platform.
However, the 37-year-old is quick to emphasize that the team, and his country, come first, and he was irritated by inquiries about his international retirement if things do not go well for Portugal against North Macedonia, or what happens after the finals are done.
“I’m starting to see the same question a lot,” our number seven said at a press conference. “Nobody else but me will determine my future. If I feel like it, I’ll play some more. I don’t play if that isn’t the case. I’m in charge, period.”
“There is always a sense of urgency. We’re all ready to go. We were ecstatic to be able to compete in this final. If North Macedonia has made it this far, it is because they have earned it.
“No one is more important than everyone else,” he insisted, despite his pleasure at the return of veteran defender Pepe. “We really want to get to the World Cup with Portugal.”
Ronaldo’s record for his country is amazing, with 115 goals in 185 appearances.
Diogo Dalot and Bruno Fernandes will also be hoping to start in Tuesday’s 19:45 BST match as Portugal looks to secure a spot in the group-stage draw on Friday afternoon.
Cristiano Ronaldo makes a specific wish for Portugal before the “game of our life”
Before Portugal’s crucial World Cup qualification playoff match against North Macedonia, Cristiano Ronaldo has made a particular request.
The 37-year-old will captain his country in the crucial match, with the winner qualifying for the World Cup finals in Qatar this winter. Portugal will be overwhelming favorites in Porto after defeating Turkey in the first round of qualification matches last week.
North Macedonia is on a high after shocking Italy with a last-minute winner last week, and they could be on their way to their second major final in two years, after qualifying for their first ever competition at the European Championships last summer.
The 50,000 tickets for Tuesday’s important World Cup playoff at Porto’s Estadio Dragao sold out in less than one hour, indicating exceptional demand for the game. Portugal is hoping to qualify for their fifth consecutive World Cup finals, which will almost certainly be Ronaldo’s last as a player.
Prior to kick-off, when the national anthems are performed, Ronaldo communicated with the Portuguese FA and made a particular request. “I’d like the national anthem to be performed in the stadium without any music,” Ronaldo said during a press conference ahead of the game on Tuesday.”
“This will demonstrate our willpower and spirit.” I am confident that we will win if they chant it like they did on Thursday (against Turkey).”
Ronaldo did not score in the 3-1 victory over Turkey, but he was an essential part of Fernando Santos’ team as they advanced to the last round of the playoffs on Tuesday. “The team has a lot of confidence, and we’re looking forward to the final,” Ronaldo continued. “Like North Macedonia, this is the game of our lives.”
“We’re constantly under pressure, and we know it’ll be tough — North Macedonia is in this game because they deserve to be.” We will respect them because they are really well organized, but if we play at our level, we can beat any team in the world.”
Ronaldo has played in the World Cup finals four times – in 2006, 2010, 2014, and 2018 – but has never won the tournament, with this year’s championships in Qatar poised to be his final appearance. The Manchester United hero led his country to Euro 2016 glory, but he hopes to add the world’s most prestigious championship to his resume.
The 37-year-old has more international goals than any other player, scoring 115 times in 185 appearances for Portugal. Ronaldo has appeared in four FIFA World Cups for his country, scoring seven goals in the game. In the last tournament, he stole the show with a spectacular hat-trick in a 3-3 draw against Spain, scoring four goals.