Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal are aiming for glory at the 2022 World Cup, in what could end up being the 37-year-old’s last opportunity to win the tournament in the twilight of his career.
The former Real Madrid and Manchester United striker has been a talismanic figure for his country, scoring more than a century of goals during his involvement at the senior international level, which has spanned an unbelievable 19 years.
There have been many high points during his time with Portugal, none more so than the Euro 2016 campaign, where he managed to get his hands on the trophy despite being injured in the 1-0 final victory against France.
Here, we take a look at Portugal’s potential path to the final at Qatar 2022, and evaluate whether superstar Ronaldo could have a genuine chance of winning the most prestigious prize in the game.
Portugal were drawn into Group H, where they will battle it out with Ghana, Uruguay, and Korea Republic for a place in the Round of 16.
They started well with a 3-2 win over Ghana on November 24 and booked their place in the last 16 with a 2-0 defeat of Uruguay on November 28. They round off group play against South Korea on December 2.
Ronaldo scored his eighth World Cup finals goal against Ghana, making him the first player to score in five editions of the finals, although he cut a disgruntled figure when substituted in a 2-1 dead rubber defeat to South Korea.
Thurs, Nov. 24
Portugal 3-2 Ghana
Mon, Nov. 28
Portugal 2-0 Uruguay
Fri, Dec. 2
South Korea 2-1 Portugal
Education City Stadium
Round of 16: Portugal 6-1 Switzerland
Topping Group H put Portugal on a collision course with familiar foes Switzerland.
Head coach Fernando Santos caused a sensation before kickoff by dropping Ronaldo to the bench. His replacement, Benfica youngster Goncalo Ramos, marked his first international start with a brilliant hat-trick.
Pepe became the second oldest goalscorer in World Cup history behind Cameroon great Roger Milla, while Raphael Guerreiro and Rafael Leao were also on target.
Quarterfinals: Portugal vs. Morocco
Portugal will face Morocco in the quarterfinals, with the north African side having dispatched their Iberian neighbours Spain on penalties following a 0-0 draw.
Santos and his players will not take Morocco lightly, but their surprise run adds to the sense that a route is opening up for the Selecao.
If Ronaldo and Portugal manage to reach the last four, a semifinal against the winners of a mouthwatering clash between England and France will lie in wait.
Ronaldo has some history with England at the World Cup. In the 2006 quarterfinal he was seen winking at his own bench after playing a part in successful protests to get then-Manchester United teammate Wayne Rooney sent off for stamping on Ricardo Carvalho. Ronaldo then scored the decisive penalty in the shoot-out that followed a goalless stalemate.
France ended Portugal’s run in the semifinals in 2006, so Ronaldo might progress with revenge on his mind. First, he faces an almighty scrap to win back his place in the starting lineup.
World Cup final
If all things fall right in this dream scenario, Ronaldo and Lionel Messi could have one final dance at the elite level and go head-to-head for the World Cup trophy in Qatar.
Arguably the two greatest players to ever play the game, there is real potential that this theoretical encounter could become one of the most widely anticipated realities in sporting history. Both players have never won a World Cup, despite their best efforts.
The Netherlands, who take on Argentina in the quarterfinals, and an in-form Brazil look like the most obvious obstacles to this dream scenario.