MANY footballers dream of edging into three figures for total goals in their careers but last month Cristiano Ronaldo went into three digits for international goals, something that’s both astounding and utterly predictable.
Ever since the 2006-07 season the Portuguese has become the most effective goal machine of his, and possibly any, era. His epochal achievement and stylistic battle with Lionel Messi generally sees the Argentinean come out on top, but when it comes to the international game, Ronaldo’s goal total, and more importantly his nation’s triumph at Euro 2016, gives him the edge.
Ali Daei’s long standing record of 109 goals for Iran, so beloved by pub quiz compilers, is now within realistic grasp for Ronaldo. In the meantime, here’s some handy pointers on what he’s done so far.
1) Ronaldo’s first goal for his country came in the opening game at Euro 2004, an injury time consolation in a 2-1 defeat to Greece that was a haunting glimpse of how the tournament would end for the hosts. If you need confirmation that the goal was a long time ago then take in the fact that it is closer to the release of the original Sega Mega Drive than it is to now.
2) Sitting here in 2020 it’s perhaps less surprising that three of Ronaldo’s first four goals for Portugal came with his head, but in 2004 the young Manchester United player was still in his callow-winger-with-blonde-tips era. No matter; the hair may have been different but the skull was just as effective.
Just as a comparison, of Peter Crouch’s first nine goals for England, only three of them came with his head. Ronaldo currently has 24 headed goals for Portugal, as many as Geoff Hurst scored with any body part for England.
3) Should CR7 score for Portugal in 2021 it will be the 18th successive year that he has scored in international football, which is longer than Serbia have played football independently from Montenegro.
4) We’ve long learnt that it’s impossible to write Ronaldo off in terms of aging like a normal footballer but the fact that his most productive year is 2019 with 14 goals is still impressive. Second is 2016 with 13 and third is 2013 with 10. The barren years? 2008 and 2009 with one each.
5) Ronaldo, of course, remains the only footballer in the game’s history to score against the so-called “axis of evil”, North Korea, Iran and Millwall. Goals 179, 44 and 11 if you’re wondering.
6) To appreciate the spread of Ronaldo’s career observe that his first goal for Portugal was assisted by Luis Figo (born November 1972) and his most recent was assisted by Joao Felix (born November 1999). Stanley Matthews could probably beat that spread but someone, no-one knows who, decided not to collect assists back in those days.
7) Ronaldo’s 88th minute direct free-kick for Portugal against Spain in the 2018 World Cup completed his hat-trick in the game and finally ended a previous run of 44 goalless efforts from direct free-kicks at World Cups and European Championships in his career. This was more than twice as many as the next European in the same period (Wesley Snjeider with 18, also goalless).
Compare that to Wales’ record of six shots, two goals, all of which came from Gareth Bale. It makes you wonder why Bale didn’t get more of an opportunity to take them at Real Madrid until you remember, ah, well, yes.