Cristiano Ronaldo’s Top 10 Memorable National Team Moments

The veteran forward and global superstar is set to make a record-extending 200th international appearance for Portugal. Al Jazeera takes a look back at the highs and lows of his illustrious 20-year international career, as well as some weird and wonderful moments in between.

It has now been 20 years since Cristiano Ronaldo, the 38-year-old five-time Ballon d’Or winner, made his international debut for Portugal one balmy evening against Kazakhstan.

Since then, he’s won a European Championship and Nations League for his country, and has set records for the most goals scored and the most appearances in international men’s football.


On Tuesday, he is set to make a record-extending 200th appearance for Portugal as they head to Iceland for a Euro 2024 qualification game.

To mark this milestone, Al Jazeera takes a look back at the highs and lows of his illustrious 20-year international career, as well as some weird and wonderful moments in between.


1. Euro 2004 heartache

The tournament’s hosts, Portugal, made it all the way to the final, only to be beaten by a disciplined Greece side.

Ronaldo, still a teenager and deployed on the wing, had scored a vital goal in their semifinal against the Netherlands and secured a spot in the UEFA team of the tournament.

After the final, he slumped to the ground in tears. It was a bitter disappointment for Ronaldo, but his scintillating performances in that tournament left no one in doubt. A star had been born.


2. 2006 World Cup wink

Sixty-one minutes into a quarter-final stalemate with England, a young, hot-headed Wayne Rooney stamped on Ricardo Carvalho after the defender had fallen to the ground following a tussle.

Ronaldo, who was then Rooney’s Manchester United teammate, stormed up to the referee, protesting the foul.

Rooney was sent off, after which Ronaldo appeared to wink at the Portugal bench.

As innocuous as it may have seemed to other nations, England fans were infuriated, and the nation’s media went into overdrive, demonising Ronaldo for his actions.

He was jeered throughout the following Premier League season. Not that he would have cared much, as the Red Devils won the title with Ronaldo as the league’s top scorer.


3. Ronaldo scores four in playoffs

In late 2013, Ronaldo led his side to a place at the 2014 World Cup after scoring four goals against Sweden in a two-legged playoff.

The fixtures were billed as a showdown between Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the Portuguese superstar.

The Swedish forward did his bit scoring two goals in the second leg, but ultimately it was Ronaldo who triumphed, securing a 4-2 win on aggregate.


Ronaldo, left, celebrates after scoring the opening goal against Sweden in Lisbon, 2013

4. The microphone and the lake

The then-31-year-old Real Madrid forward displayed some frustration in the early stages of the 2016 European Championship in France.

His performances, by his standards, were below par. In a group game, he refused to shake hands with Iceland’s players following Portugal’s 1-1 draw in their opening game. In the second match, he missed a penalty in a goalless draw with Austria.

Then, just before Portugal’s final group game, a reporter began an impromptu interview with Ronaldo as he went for a stroll with his teammates. Irritated, Ronaldo wrestled the microphone from his hands and threw it into a nearby lake.

5. First trophy with Portugal

It might not have been pretty, but Portugal beat Euro 2016 tournament hosts France in extra time to lift the coveted trophy.

Ronaldo notched up three goals in the tournament but was forced off early in the final after picking up an injury.

He spent the rest of the game with ice strapped to his knee as he frantically gesticulated and issued instructions from the bench.


Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates with Ricardo Quaresma, Nani, Rui Patricio and the trophy after winning Euro 2016.

6. 2018 World Cup hat-trick

Ronaldo scored three goals in a group-stage Iberian derby at the 2018 World Cup in Russia to make him the oldest-ever player to score a hat-trick at a World Cup.

His final goal, which brought the game level at 3-3 in the 88th minute, was a sumptuous trademark Ronaldo free kick.

7. 2019 Nations League win

Ronaldo picked up his second international trophy in the inaugural Nations League.

Once again, the then-Juventus forward was crucial in guiding his country to the final, scoring a hat-trick in the semifinal against Switzerland.

In the final, however, just like in 2016, it was another player, Goncalo Guedes, who then played for Valencia, who scored a solitary goal to win it for Portugal.

8. Starts bottle-removing trend

In a press conference at Euro 2020, the famously health-obsessed Ronaldo removed a bottle of Coca-Cola from the table and replaced it with water.

It sent Coca-Cola stocks plummeting and inadvertently started a trend of other players removing unwanted drinks from the table, including France’s Paul Pogba removing a bottle of Heineken beer.

9. Breaks scoring record

In September 2021, Ronaldo netted his 110th and 111th international goals in a 2022 World Cup qualifying win over the Republic of Ireland, making him the leading scorer in men’s international football.

He surpassed Iran’s Ali Daei, who had previously held the record.

10. An unhappy 2022 World Cup

In his first season back at Manchester United, Ronaldo silenced critics who claimed he was too old by notching up 24 goals in all competitions in 2021-22.

However, things began to unravel at the start of the 2022-23 season, when he stormed off before the end of a game in which he had been an unused substitute.

By the time the World Cup came around in late 2022, his relationship with United boss Erik Ten Hag had broken down irreparably, especially after an explosive TV interview in which he criticised the club.

Controversy followed him to the World Cup, with head coach Fernando Santos opting to bench Ronaldo in Portugal’s 6-1 steamrolling of Switzerland, apparently after he had reacted angrily while being substituted against South Korea during the group stages of the tournament.

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