Cristiano Ronaldo scored a penalty and hit a free kick to set a new record for most caps in Portugal’s 4-0 win over Liechtenstein in their first Euro 2024 qualifier on Thursday.
Ronaldo celebrated his 197th cap, beating Kuwait Badr Al Mutawawith a double in the return to the starting eleven for the Group J tie at the José Alvalade Stadium.
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He converted a penalty in the 51st minute, his first goal against the small Alpine principality, as the home team won 3-0 and added the fourth with a signature free kick that folded the hands of visiting goalkeeper Benjamin Buchel.
After the match, Ronaldo wrote on Instagram: “What a good feeling to play again and score for our team and in a special stadium for me. Proud to be the player with the most caps.”
Joao Cancelo had put Portugal in the lead in the eighth minute with a long-range half-volley that missed slightly through a crowd of players, but Portugal were frustrated by the visitors’ solid defense.
Seventy seconds into the second half, however, Bernardo Silva he picked up a loose ball after Cancelo stopped the drive towards goal and finished it off for a 2-0 lead.
Ronaldo, who turned 38 last month, converted a penalty after Cancelo was brought down before his blistering free kick in the 63rd minute extended his record for most international soccer goals to 120.
Earlier, the Portugal captain, removed in the 78th minute before he could score a hat trick, missed brilliant chances when he dodged the ball in front of goal and deflected a deflected header.
Ronaldo had been benched by former coach Fernando Santos for Portugal’s last two matches at the World Cup last year in Qatar, where they lost in the quarterfinals to Morocco. Former Belgium coach Roberto Martinez replaced Santos and was in charge of his first game as Portugal manager.
“It was very, very positive,” Martinez told Portuguese television.
“It was an obvious next step because of the attitude and the work we did in training. It’s always very difficult to play these kinds of games, they’re ‘cheat games’, but the way we played with the ball and how we stifled the danger of Liechtenstein was very important.”
Ronaldo currently plays for Saudi club Al Nassr after a bitter departure from Manchester United ahead of the World Cup, but Martinez said the door was still open for the country’s biggest star to continue with the national team.
“It’s a new cycle. It’s important that a player shows commitment and that we can use his experience, and Cristiano shows it,” added Martínez.