Cristiano Ronaldo has carved out another piece of football history for himself, but one suspects it will be scant consolation for him after Portugal’s stunning FIFA World Cup elimination at the hands of Morocco on Saturday.
After his introduction as a second-half substitute to replace Ruben Neves, Ronaldo won his 196th international cap – drawing level with Kuwait’s Bader Al-Mutawa for the most appearances in the history of international football.
However, the 37-year-old Al-Mutawa could potentially retake the record if he is selected for Kuwait at the upcoming Gulf Cup which kicks off in early January – with Kuwait set to play FIFA World Cup hosts Qatar in their opening match.
Ronaldo already holds the record for the most goals scored in international football, with 118, after he broke the record previously held by Iran’s Ali Daei (109).
The former Manchester United man broke that record when he scored two headed goals against the Republic of Ireland in a 2-1 win World Cup qualification match in September 2021.
He is also the top goalscorer in the history of European Championships, with 11.
Earlier in the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, Ronaldo became the first male player to have scored at five different tournaments.
However, Ronaldo, who is playing in his final World Cup, would likely trade those accolades for just one more opportunity to play in Qatar, after his side’s stunning defeat to Morocco in Saturday’s quarter-final ensured that they would become the first African team ever to play in the World Cup’s final four.
Damn Ronaldo walked straight off the pitch in tears without congratulating one of the Morocco players then gets confronted by a pitch invader and he shoves him away…..pic.twitter.com/yCC9zREoka
— JAKE BUCKLEY 🇦🇺 (@TheMasterBucks) December 10, 2022
The manner of the defeat proved too much for multiple-time Ballon d’Or winner to bear, as he rushed from the pitch moments after the final whistle blew, struggling unsuccessfully to mask the tears pouring down his cheeks.
He received commiserations from several Moroccan players, though his Portugal teammates opted to walk towards the Portuguese supporters instead of consoling their captain.
Portugal coach Fernando Santos, who’s been rumored to have been involved in a bust-up with Ronaldo after dropping him from the first team, patted him on the back as he made a beeline for the dressing room.
It remains to be seen if this was Ronaldo’s final act on the international stage – but if it is, his imprint will be long felt in the international football record books.