Football

UEFA Euro 2024: Roberto Martinez Dares To Dream, Defends Ronaldo Inclusion

Roberto Martinez is daring to dream as Portugal prepare to open their Euro 2024 campaign, where ageing star Cristiano Ronaldo has been selected "on merit"

Cristiano Ronaldo and Roberto Martinez are plotting Euro 2024 success with Portugal
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Roberto Martinez is daring to dream as Portugal prepare to open their Euro 2024 campaign, where ageing star Cristiano Ronaldo has been selected "on merit". (More Football News)

Portugal are the favourites to top Group F in Germany, opening their tournament against Czechia on Tuesday before facing Turkiye and Georgia.

Martinez's side were the only team to win 100 per cent of their games in the qualifying campaign (10/10), while they also scored more goals than any other team (36).

The former Belgium manager has major-tournament pedigree, too, guiding the Red Devils to third place at the 2018 World Cup and quarter-finals at Euro 2020.

Going further on this occasion remains at the forefront of the Spaniard's mind.

"We must believe, we need to dream big," the Portugal head coach said at Monday's pre-match press conference.

"If we don't dream big, then it will be tough. But we also owe it to everyone to play well.

"Tomorrow will be the right time to show that we're ready, that we can meet all the expectations. 

"I brought seven shirts, not three. But now we need to put it all out there on the pitch for these first three matches."

Portugal have the likes of Joao Felix, Diogo Jota and Goncalo Ramos to call upon in attack, though a familiar face remains in Ronaldo.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner holds the record for most games (25), most goals (14), joint-most assists on record (six – since 1972) and most editions with at least one goal (five) at the Euros.

Indeed, since 1972, Ronaldo has scored/assisted twice as many goals as any other player at this tournament: 20 in total (14 goals, six assists). Michel Platini is second on 10 (nine goals, one assist).

Ronaldo is also the European player with the most appearances at major tournaments, World Cup and Euros combined (47), therefore his inclusion is hardly a surprise.

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"Cristiano is in the national team on merit," Martinez added. "Nobody gets into the national team just by having a name.

"Cristiano scored 51 goals in 50 games [for Al-Nassr last season].

"For us he is a goalscorer, someone who can make that final move, someone who can really stretch defenders, really open spaces.

"Obviously, over the years Cristiano has changed his way of playing slightly, but I can only say that Cristiano is in the national team on merit and the numbers are there to back that up."

Ruben Dias says Ronaldo's influence spans further than his influence on the pitch, however.

"I would say he represents inspiration, he represents that everything is possible, he represents that you can dream and you can achieve it," the Manchester City defender said.

"It's obviously a pleasure to have him with us in this moment of his career. He represents to us that he really wants to win again and he's our captain and obviously we follow him to the end."

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