Cristiano Ronaldo feels at home again.
It only took him two games to make peace with the Portugal national team and show that he is yet to impress at international level.
In his return after a disappointing World Cup and a controversial move to Saudi football, Ronaldo, 38, scored four goals in Portugal’s first two games in European Championship 2024 qualifying, showing he is the leader fans are used to seeing. The red and green uniform of the national team.
Ronaldo’s 6-0 defeat in Luxembourg on Sunday, three days after another 4-0 drubbing against Liechtenstein, made him the men’s player with the most international caps at 197.
“Two games, two wins,” the Portugal captain said on his social media accounts after the win in Luxembourg. “Our national team is happy to contribute to a very positive start. Let’s go.”
The goals came against the European minnows but were enough to restore Ronaldo’s confidence and his role as a starter with the national team.
Ronaldo was in tears as he walked off the pitch with Portugal for the final time after losing to Morocco in the quarter-finals of last year’s World Cup in Qatar.
A disappointing World Cup added to his decision to accept a lucrative deal from Saudi club Al Nassr, leaving his future with the national team in doubt. He said last week he wasn’t sure if he would ever play internationally again, returning after reflecting with his family and realizing there was no time to “throw in the towel”.
Santos’ replacement by coach Roberto Martinez after the World Cup may also have been part of his decision to continue playing. The Spaniard pledged to respect Ronaldo’s history, and the star forward said he would welcome a “breath of fresh air” to the national team.
Martinez said he was delighted with Ronaldo’s attitude in the coach’s first two games in charge.
“Ronaldo is a unique player and brings a lot of experience to the locker room,” said the former Belgium coach. “He is a reference and is ready to be a leader and leader of this national team.”
With his four goals at the start of the Martinez era, Ronaldo extended his international scoring record to 122 goals, 13 more than former Iran striker Ali Dei. Ronaldo’s 198th international match on Sunday put him two ahead of Kuwait’s Badr Al-Mutawa.
Portugal, the 2016 European champions, play their next two games against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iceland in June. The team leads Group J with 6 points, 2 points more than Slovakia, qualifying for Euro 2024. The top two in each group qualify for the tournament in Germany next summer.
If Ronaldo is as happy and motivated as he is now, he will surely be there to help Portugal win another European Cup.