Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal career in numbers after final World Cup campaign ends in tears

By Sports Desk December 11, 2022 1472

Cristiano Ronaldo arrived at the World Cup in Qatar looking to cap his remarkable international career by lifting football's greatest prize.

But the forward ended his campaign distraught, being led to the dressing room in tears after Morocco stunned Portugal with a 1-0 quarter-final victory at Al Thumama Stadium.

Ronaldo's tournament was one to forget, with the 37-year-old unceremoniously dropped for his nation's best performance against Switzerland in the last 16 and again being reduced to a role off the bench against Morocco.

It was an underwhelming campaign, but one that will not detract from his previous achievements on the international stage, regardless of whether he continues to represent his country.

As well as becoming the all-time leading goalscorer in men's international football, Ronaldo led Portugal to their first major trophy at Euro 2016 before repeating the trick in the Nations League, and his Selecao records look unlikely to be matched any time soon.

With one of the all-time greats facing an uncertain future after seeing his "biggest and most ambitious dream" dashed, Stats Perform assesses the remarkable numbers behind Ronaldo's Portugal career.

 

Ronaldo has attracted plenty of plaudits for his longevity, deciding games at the highest level from his teenage years until his late thirties. The forward's incredible tally of 196 Portugal caps puts him 50 clear of his nearest contender – Wolves midfielder Joao Moutinho with 146. 

If his appearance record looks set to stand for a long time, his goalscoring numbers look even less likely to be challenged – Ronaldo's tally of 118 international goals is more than double that of Portugal's second-highest goalscorer (Pauleta with 47), and is unmatched in the history of men's football.

Indeed, Iran's Ali Daei is the only other player to have reached a century of goals in international football, hitting the net 109 times.

While Ronaldo's ability to reinvent himself as the ultimate goal poacher allowed him to prosper on the club stage, his international goalscoring prowess was by no means a later development.

Ronaldo failed to score on his first two Portugal appearances as an 18-year-old in 2003, but he has netted at least one international goal in each of the 19 subsequent years.

In 2004, a teenage Ronaldo hit the net seven times in 16 international appearances, helping his side to the Euro 2004 final on home soil and scoring at a rate of a goal every 145 minutes.

Ronaldo's most prolific year for Portugal came in 2019, when he scored 14 times in just 10 appearances at an incredible rate of 59 minutes per goal.

 

On the club stage, Ronaldo has carved out a reputation as the ultimate big-game player – netting in Champions League finals for both Manchester United and Real Madrid while outscoring every other player on Europe's grandest stage (140 goals).

Ronaldo has also appeared to prefer playing within his own continent in a Portugal shirt; his tally of 14 goals at the European Championships is an all-time record, putting him five clear of France great Michel Platini.

Ronaldo has also hit the net seven times in just 11 Nations League games, perhaps making it fitting that his greatest achievements have come when leading his side to continental glory at Euro 2016 and in 2018-19's Nations League campaign.

At the World Cup, it has been a slightly different story for Ronaldo. His tally of eight finals goals is certainly not to be taken lightly, but all of those efforts came in the group stages – no player has scored more often at the tournament without netting in a knockout tie.

Ronaldo did become the first player to score in five different editions of the World Cup when he struck a penalty in their group-stage win over Ghana last month, but that record will mean little in the context of his failure to carry his continental achievements into the world's most important competition.

 

Ronaldo may have failed to get his hands on international football's most prestigious trophy, but that has not stopped the likes of Johan Cruyff or Ferenc Puskas from being considered contenders to be the greatest player to have played the sport.

Proponents of Ronaldo's suitability for that title have often highlighted his raw numbers, and they certainly speak to an historic legacy.

Twenty-four of Ronaldo's 118 Portugal goals have been scored at the World Cup, European Championships or Confederations Cup, with just 20 coming in friendlies, demonstrating his status as a player who has thrived under the brightest of lights.

Age catches up with us all eventually, however, and Ronaldo's displays in Qatar attracted plenty of detractors. 

Where Ronaldo ranks among the greatest players to feature on the international stage will continue to be discussed, but his incredible statistics ensure he will always have a place in that debate.

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Last modified on Sunday, 11 December 2022 12:30
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