Cristiano Ronaldo has set his sights on Ali Daei’s record of 109 international goals following a double in Portugal’s 2-1 Nations League win away to Sweden that saw him reach 101 goals for his country since his debut in 2004.
Having missed Portugal’s Nations League opener against Croatia on Saturday with a toe injury, Ronaldo wasted no time on his return, scoring a first-half freekick and adding a second from open play in the 72nd minute.
“I managed to beat this milestone of 100 goals and now (I’ll go) for the record. It’s step by step. I am not obsessed because I believe the records come in a natural way,” Ronaldo said.
“When I had this problem in my toe I always knew that I could recover for this second game. I like to be here, with this group of players, coach, staff and knew that they would play well in the first game as our squad is too good and no one is irreplaceable.”
Having netted five times in his previous encounters against the Swedes, only a fool would have bet against him writing more history in Stockholm.
Scoring one of the best goals of his international career was a fitting way to enter the “100 Club”, and he wheeled away in delight before performing his trademark celebration－the mid-air pirouette.
Ronaldo then added a second－another curler into the top corner－and needs nine more to surpass Daei’s 109, scored for Iran from 1993-2006. Juventus star Ronaldo already holds the Champions League record with 131 goals－16 more than closest rival Lionel Messi.
“Yesterday he scored six or seven (freekicks) like that in training and today it went exactly the same way. It’s so good to have Cristiano on the team,” Portugal midfielder Bruno Fernandes said.
Ronaldo forced another fine save from keeper Robin Olsen before leaving the fray in the 81st minute to be replaced by Diogo Jota, his thoughts moving quickly on to his next task.
“The future, only God knows. I am happy to play with these young players and I am enjoying a lot this moment both individually and collectively,” he said.
While acknowledging that health came first, he lamented that the COVID-19 pandemic had forced an empty stadium in Sweden.
“It’s sad playing without fans, it’s like going to the circus with no clowns or into a garden with no flowers,” Ronaldo said. “Speaking for myself, when I play away matches I like being whistled, it gives me motivation.”
After making his Portugal debut as an 18-year-old in 2003, Ronaldo notched his first international goal in a 2-1 defeat by eventual winner Greece at Euro 2004 and has gone on to win 165 caps for his country.