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This team has to dream – Cristiano Ronaldo relishing another shot at Euro glory

Portugal skipper Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring against the Republic of Ireland in Aveiro (Luis Vieira/AP)
Portugal skipper Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring against the Republic of Ireland in Aveiro (Luis Vieira/AP)

Cristiano Ronaldo has challenged Portugal to head into the Euro 2024 finals with their feet on the ground and their thoughts “in the sky” as they target a repeat of their success eight years ago.

The 39-year-old captained his country to European glory in 2016 and, having scored 10 goals in qualification this time around, is hopeful of making a significant impact in Germany.

Ronaldo underlined his ability to do just that with two fine finishes in Tuesday night’s 3-0 friendly victory over the Republic of Ireland in Aveiro, in the process taking his international tally to a staggering 130 as the Portuguese banished the memory of a 2-1 defeat by Croatia in their penultimate warm-up fixture, a result which raised eyebrows.

Asked about the criticism which followed that game, the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star told reporters: “Success can only be achieved through criticism.

“The Portuguese expect a lot from Portugal. There is no margin for error, nothing, they always want Portugal to win, because of the generation, because of the talent that exists.

“A defeat is always bad, but that’s where good things come from, what you learn. If there are none, we cannot learn.

“We have to have our feet on the ground and our thoughts in the sky dreaming of the European Championship.”

Even as he approaches his 40th birthday, one of world football’s superstars admits he still dreams as he did as a boy of winning trophies with his country.

He said: “Of course I dream the same way. Playing for the national team is my love, my passion in any game.

“Of course, the European Championship is special – it’s my sixth, it’s also a record. But for me, going back to 2004 in my first game, the thought and pride remains the same. Playing for Portugal, it doesn’t get any better than this.

“For the European Championship, we have to think positively, step by step. This team has to dream. It has the talent for it and has worked hard because just having talent is no use if there is no work.”

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo (left) scored twice in a 3-0 friendly victory over the Republic of Ireland
Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo (left) scored twice in a 3-0 friendly victory over the Republic of Ireland (Luis Vieira/AP)

Exactly what role Ronaldo plays in Germany remains to be seen, with manager Roberto Martinez acutely aware of both his enduring quality and his advancing years.

However, what is not in doubt is his potency, with his first goal against Ireland in particular one for the scrapbook after he received Ruben Neves’ long ball and cut inside defender Liam Scales before dispatching a venomous left-footed shot into helpless keeper Caoimhin Kelleher’s top corner.

Asked if it was one of his best goals, Ronaldo replied: “If the first goal of this game was one of my best goals, I don’t know. I can’t rewind all the goals, but it must be.

“But the most important thing is that the team did well, we played well. It was important to win regardless of who scores the goals. The team is synchronised, the objective was to win and gain confidence.”