As soon as the final whistle blew on Portugal’s 2-1 defeat to Uruguay in the 2018 World Cup round of 16, it was the question on everyone’s mind — as it was for Lionel Messi when Argentina lost to France earlier on Saturday — was that the last time we’ll see Cristiano Ronaldo play at the World Cup? What about for his country, period?
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Predictably, Portugal manger Fernando Santos not only hopes it won’t be Ronaldo’s last World Cup/international appearance, but he’s admittedly desperate to keep the 33-year-old a part of the national team setup — quotes from the BBC:
“He still has a lot to give to football. There is a tournament in September and we hope Cristiano will be with us to help the players grow.”
“We hope he will be there with us, of course, to help the younger ones to grow. We have a team with many young players and it’s important to have a captain. He’s always there for us.”
“Congratulations to Uruguay. It’s very sad for Portugal, though. There’s a real sadness in the dressing room that we weren’t able to make it through for them. In football, there are no moral victories and I would have preferred to play worse and win the match. But I do feel that the second half was very good from us, in terms of desire and our determination to score. We tried our best and we played a good game, I think. But you always want to win, and we lost, so well done to Uruguay for making it through.”
The “tournament in September” to which Santos is referring is the UEFA Nations League, a brand new competition which will replace a vast majority of between-tournament friendlies and provide national teams a competitive environment to sharpen themselves ahead of the 2020 European Championship and the 2022 World Cup, and beyond.
Having already been crowned a champion of Europe — three seasons straight with Real Madrid at the club level, and again with Portugal in 2016 at the international level — will the chance to defend Portugal’s crown serve as motivation enough to attempt another run at the World Cup in Qatar? As Santos also points out, Portugal have a wave of young talent ready — waiting — to break through, and while he’s stood in the way of some of it — as much as an all-time great can do — his presence and wisdom could prove invaluable over the next 12, 24, or perhaps 48 months.