Czech test: Portugal's Ronaldo hopes to have the last laugh

Portugal's forward Cristiano Ronaldo takes part in a training session. [AFP]

Superstar Portugal striker Cristiano Ronaldo is determined to make more European Championship history this summer.

The veteran forward, 39, says his team “deserve” to win another major international trophy to add to their singular triumph, at Euro 2016.

Portugal kick off their tournament against Czech Republic in Leipzig on Tuesday with Ronaldo set to start and appear at a record-extending sixth Euros.

Roberto Martinez’s side qualified with a 100 percent record and should progress with ease from Group F, which also contains Turkey and Georgia.

“I believe this generation deserves to win a competition of this magnitude,” Ronaldo told reporters upon arrival in Germany, setting his sights on the Henri Delaunay trophy.

The former Real Madrid hitman triumphed with Portugal in 2016 but limped off injured against France in the final, with Eder firing the team to glory in extra-time.

Now plying his trade for immense wealth in Saudi Arabia with Al-Nassr, Ronaldo netted twice against the Republic of Ireland in a tune-up friendly last week to extend his international goals record to 130.

Thus far 14 of those have come at European Championships, making him the competition’s all-time top scorer ahead of France great Michel Platini on nine.

Ronaldo first appeared at the tournament in 2004 on home soil, scoring against eventual winners Greece on his Euros debut, and he has also struck in every edition since.

The forward has 25 appearances at the finals, missing only one game at the tournament on the five occasions he has been selected as part of Portugal’s squad.

If Ronaldo nets in Germany he will become the oldest ever Euros goalscorer, with the current record set by Austria’s Ivica Vastic in 2008, scoring at 38 years and 257 days old.

“I enjoy football, records are a consequence, so for me it’s not a target, because I think they come naturally,” said Ronaldo.

“I’m happy to have a sixth European Championship and it’s about enjoying it in the best way, playing well, making sure the team can win, trying to give my all and enjoying it.”

Many believed Ronaldo’s time was finally up on the international stage when he was dropped for the last two matches of Portugal’s 2022 World Cup campaign after failing to score from open play in the three group games.

However, Martinez has stuck by the five-time Ballon d’Or winner. Ronaldo started every qualifier he was available for, scoring eight goals in the process.

Despite his long and storied international career, Ronaldo said he still suffers with nerves after a men’s record 207 caps for his country. “There’s always that tingling in the stomach, especially the day before the game, but that’s normal, that’s part of it and I’m glad I feel it, because when I don’t feel it, it’s better to give up and stop,” said the forward.

Ronaldo’s ambition is fuel for his teammates to thrive on.

“Knowing Cristiano, he’ll always think big, and we’ll keep up with him,” Manchester United defender Diogo Dalot told a news conference Saturday.

While Portugal are among the favourites to lift the trophy, the Czech Republic have not gone beyond the quarter-finals for 20 years.

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By AFP 7 hrs ago
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