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Cristiano Ronaldo has drastically changed Portugal's fortune on the international stage following his major competition debut in 2004.
At 18, Ronaldo made his first senior appearance for Portugal in 2003. He was then called up for the UEFA Euro 2004, held in his home country.
He weighed in with goals and assists as he guided Portugal to the final, where they lost to Greece.
:flag_pt: :chart_with_upwards_trend: Portugal in European tournaments...
- 1984: Semis
- 1988: Did not qualify
- 1992: Did not qualify
- 1996: Quarters
- 2000: Semis
- 2004: Final
- 2008: Quarters
- 2012: Semis
- 2016: Winners
- 2019: Winners #NationsLeague pic.twitter.com/DpkspgoMTG
- The Sportsman (@TheSportsman) June 9, 2019
Portugal failed to deliver in the next two Euro's. They were knocked out by Germany in the quarter-finals at Euro 2008 before being dumped out by Spain at Euro 2012.
However, Ronaldo steered Portugal to silverware at Euro 2012. He produced heroics throughout the tournament as they beat France in the final to win the European Championships.
And he secured another trophy for Portugal over the weekend after beating the Netherlands 1-0 in the UEFA Nations League final.
The 34-year-old is delighted to win the Nations League in front of the Portuguese people.
"A lot of happiness! It was excellent, I'm very happy. Having won this trophy here in Portugal in front of the Portuguese people, for me this is a great honour," he said.
"As I said before, I'm very happy to win here. The Portuguese people deserve it. They've supported us right from the start of the two matches, against Switzerland and today, and this trophy is for all of them. It doesn't belong to the national team but all of Portugal.
"The national team will continue, with or without Cristiano. I think the team has great potential. There are young players, players who over the years will become more mature and better.
"I want to be part of this project because I feel good and I feel able to help the national team. But, as I said, I think the national team has the potential to continue to evolve and win more trophies."
Portugal boast plenty of young players including Wolves' Ruben Neves who believes Ronaldo is the best player in the world.
"Of course, yes [Ronaldo is the best player in the world right now]," he said following his side's Nations League victory. "I can't see any one better than him.
When asked about Messi, he said: "No of course not [Messi is not as good], Cristiano is the best.
"He showed that in the semi-finals [against Switzerland] and again today with a great game, we are lucky to have him in our team," he added.
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