Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal are in Sunday’s EURO 2016 final at the Stade de France and the superstar is reveling in their 2-0 semifinal win over Wales.
Ronaldo, 31, scored a towering header to give Portugal a second half lead and three minutes later the win was all but secured as Nani deflected his shot into the net.
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The Real Madrid forward will now play in his second European Championship final with Portugal but this one is very different to the first.
Ronaldo and Portugal lost to Greece in the 2004 final in Lisbon on home soil but the former Sporting Lisbon and Manchester United star was just 19 when the Portuguese came up short.
Facing either Germany or France in the final, Ronaldo knows this will likely be his best chance to lead Portugal to its first-ever major title.
“I have always dreamed of winning for Portugal, I hope it is our turn now,” Ronaldo said. “I am very confident and I believe that all these boys deserve it. I deserve it, Portugal deserves it, the fans deserve it – every single Portuguese person deserves it. They’ve been amazing supporters.
“We’ve yet to win anything but it’s the final. I don’t think many people thought that Portugal would make it to the final, but we are there. That fills me with pride, I am very happy. Now we have to get ready for Sunday and we want to make this dream true.”
Speaking in glowing fashion about his teammates and the collective effort which has seen them get past Croatia, Poland and Wales en route to the final, Ronaldo revealed he always believed Portugal would go far in France this summer.
“This is something that I wanted after winning the Champions League,” Ronaldo said. “I believed in my heart we would go far in the Euro. Maybe it didn’t start off as well as we wanted it to but this is not a 100 meters dash, this is a marathon. We got past the group stages to the knockout stages. When you think of Nani, Renato (Sanches) and (Ricardo) Quaresma who has also scored, we’re all a team. Portugal is not all about me.”
[ VIDEO: Ronaldo shows leadership ]
It really wasn’t all about Ronaldo against Wales as Portugal’s defensive unit put in a towering display without the injured Pepe, as Jose Fonte and Bruno Alves shut down Gareth Bale and Wales’ danger-men in Lyon.
Speaking of Bale, he and his club teammate Ronaldo shared a warm embrace at the final whistle. Ronaldo could be seen talking to Bale and he revealed some of what he told the Welsh star as they bowed out after a magnificent EURO 2016.
“I congratulated them on their run,” Ronaldo said. “They had an amazing run. They were the shining star here, the revelation team. I wished them good luck and as for the rest I would rather not say.”
Apart from his jibe at Iceland in their 1-1 draw with Portugal in the opening group game, Ronaldo has stayed classy throughout this tournament. He has shown supreme leadership skills, has scored three goals and has driven unfancied Portugal on to the final.
Now, is this the moment Ronaldo joins greats like Pele and Diego Maradona in leading his nation to a major title?
You get the sense that Portugal may not be as strong at this at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, so this is their big chance for glory. Ronaldo seems determined to grab it with both hands.