File Photo: Portugal s forward Cristiano Ronaldo. AFP
Cristiano Ronaldo has been in reflective mood as he brings up 20 years in Portugal’s national team, saying he and great rival Lionel Messi “changed the history of soccer” and that he still wants to raise the bar at the age of 38. Ronaldo’s debut for Portugal was in August 2003 and two decades later the most prolific scorer in men’s internationals — with 123 goals in a record 200 games — will be playing for the team in a European Championship qualifier at Slovakia.
“I am proud of the numbers I reached. But I want more,” Ronaldo said. “When I play, the bar has to be up here, I want to think big.” On his rivalry with Messi, Ronaldo added: “If you like Cristiano Ronaldo, you don’t have to hate Messi. We are both very good.
We changed the history of soccer. We are respected all over the world. That is the most important thing. He has marked his path, I have marked mine.”
Portugal has won all four of its group games and is two points ahead of second-place Slovakia. Elsewhere, Bosnia-Herzegovina hosts Liechtenstein and Iceland visits Luxembourg.
Spain visits Georgia needing to keep in touch with group leader Scotland, which will play at Cyprus. Spain will play its first match since the president of the Spanish soccer federation was suspended by FIFA for his conduct at the Women’s World Cup final where he kissed a player without her consent.
Spain men’s coach Luis de la Fuente has apologized for the support he showed for federation chief Luis Rubiales during a speech he gave two weeks ago that included the claim he was a victim of a “witch hunt” by “false feminists.”
De la Fuente has since condemned Rubiales’ acts and words. In Group A, Spain has three points from two games played, while Scotland leads with 12 points after winning all four of its matches. Spain is behind in the number of games played because it participated in and won the Nations League finals in June.
It has been a disrupted start to qualifying for Croatia after a surprise draw against Wales and a win against current group leader Turkey in its opening two games in Group D.
The country’s involvement in the Nations League in June means it is playing catch up, having only played two qualifying games, compared to Turkey’s four.
Croatia hosts Latvia on Friday and can move up to second in the standings depending on the result between the top two, Turkey and Armenia. Croatia was a bronze medalist at the World Cup in Qatar last year.
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