Cristiano Ronaldo broke the men’s international appearance record on Thursday and marked the occasion by scoring twice in Portugal’s 4-0 thrashing of Liechtenstein in Euro 2024 qualifying.
The 38-year-old, who was dropped from the Portuguese first-choice XI during the World Cup in Qatar last year, won a 197th cap for his country in Lisbon as a starter.
He netted a 51st-minute penalty after earlier goals from Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva, before drilling home a free-kick 12 minutes later.
It was Ronaldo’s record-extending 120th goal for his country and made him the first man to score 100 times in competitive internationals.
“Records are my motivation,” Ronaldo had told reporters on Wednesday. “I want to become the most capped player in history. That would make me proud.
“But it doesn’t stop there, I still want to be called up very often.”
Ronaldo made his international debut in 2003 and became the first man to score in five World Cups last year before Portugal lost to Morocco in the quarter-finals.
He is currently playing for Saudi club Al Nassr after an acrimonious end to his second spell at Manchester United. Ronaldo’s appearance off the bench in the defeat by Morocco equalled the previous mark of 196 caps held by Kuwait’s Bader Al-Mutawa.
He left the pitch in tears following Por-tugal’s shock 1-0 loss against the North Africans. Since leaving Europe, Ronaldo has scored nine goals in 10 matches for Al Nassr.
He was replaced as the starting striker by Goncalo Ramos during the World Cup, with the Benfica youngster scoring a hat-trick in a last-16 win over Switzerland.
But veteran coach Fernando Santos stepped down following the tournament and new boss Roberto Martinez has immediately put his faith in Ronaldo, who also captained the side.
There were questions over whether his 20-year international career had ended in Qatar as Ronaldo will be 39 by the time Euro 2024 kicks off.
But Martinez, who left his role as Bel-gium coach after the World Cup, has strongly de-fended his decision to keep Ronaldo in the fold.
“I do not look at the age,” said Martinez when he announced his first squad last week. The Spaniard added his squad an-nouncement was the “starting point” for Euro 2024, suggesting Ronaldo is likely to be involved if Por-tugal qualify for the tournament in Germany.—APP