Martinez dreaming big at Euro 2024 as Portugal boss defends Ronaldo inclusion

By Sports Desk June 17, 2024

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".

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.

 

"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."

Related items

  • Rakitic joins Hajduk Split after six-month Saudi spell Rakitic joins Hajduk Split after six-month Saudi spell

    Ivan Rakitic has completed a permanent transfer to Hajduk Split following the termination of his contract by mutual consent at Saudi Pro League side Al-Shabab. 

    Rakitic, who made eight appearances for Vitor Pereira's side, leaves the club six months after joining from Sevilla in the January transfer window. 

    The 36-year-old scored on his debut against Damac FC, but would miss much of the season through injury as Al-Shabab finished eighth in the league. 

    Rakitic, who was born in Switzerland, joins the 15-time Croatian Football League champions on a year-long deal, with the option of a further year. 

    The former Barcelona midfielder arrives at the club with great pedigree, having made 106 appearances for Croatia 12-year international career. 

    Rakitic was part of Zlatko Dalic's side that reached the World Cup final in 2018, and has won 16 honours throughout his professional career at club level. 

  • Gerrard and Lampard should be favourites for England job, says Redknapp Gerrard and Lampard should be favourites for England job, says Redknapp

    Harry Redknapp believes Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard should be on the FA's list to be the next England manager.

    Gareth Southgate stepped down as the Three Lions boss earlier this week following their Euro 2024 final defeat to Spain in Germany.

    Since then, speculation over who will become the next England manager is rife, with Eddie Howe and Graham Potter among the candidates on the FA's list of targets.

    Mauricio Pochettino, Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have also seen their names linked to the vacant position.

    However, Redknapp believes two names are being excluded from discussions about Southgate's successor due to their struggles in the Premier League.

    Gerrard is currently managing Saudi Pro League side Al-Ettifaq following his departure from Aston Villa after less than a year in charge, which saw him leave with the club sitting just above the relegation zone.

    Meanwhile, Lampard has been out of work since his second spell at Chelsea when he took interim charge after being sacked by Everton.

    "The men I see as obvious front-runners will be lucky to even get an interview," Redknapp said in his column in The Sun.

    "I doubt there are many who'd agree with me when I say the FA should look no further than Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard for the next Three Lions boss.

    "Either of them could do the job standing on their head, yet probably neither will get so much as a phone call.

    "Mind you, plenty of people will insist there's no reason why they should because they've already written off both as failures. Forgetting that Frank reached an FA Cup final and finished fourth in his first spell at Chelsea. Or the fact that Everton were in such a mess, he never had a prayer when he went there.

    "There's every chance they'll gloss over Stevie's time at Rangers, despite their first title win in a decade — unbeaten as well — and say he was a flop at Aston Villa.

    "But you show me a manager who's not had a tough time of it somewhere down the line. Potter certainly did at Chelsea — he only lasted 31 games and lost 11 of them. So did Unai Emery, the man who replaced Stevie as boss at Villa, when he was Arsenal manager. It happens to everyone out there.

    "So, what's the difference between Potter and Frank? Why is one an obvious candidate for England, yet the other not even worthy of a mention?"

    Lampard and Gerrard both earned over 100 caps for England during their playing careers, though they never got further than the quarter-finals at a major tournament.

    Redknapp believes the former midfielders have the experience and the reputation to help them succeed on the big stage.

    "If the FA want someone steeped in football knowledge — at international level too — and who knows the game inside out at that level, both Frank and Stevie leave them standing," Redknapp added.

    "The players would love it as well. They'd be desperate to play for them. They would have nothing but respect whether it was Lampard or Gerrard as boss.

    "So, are they both on the scrap heap for good because they've had a failure somewhere down the line? There won't be any managers left before long if that's all it takes."

  • Ten Hag convinced Antony can still be a success at Man Utd Ten Hag convinced Antony can still be a success at Man Utd

    Erik ten Hag is still convinced Antony can make a success of his time with Manchester United after an underwhelming first two seasons at Old Trafford.

    Antony joined United in an £85million (€100m) deal in 2022, reuniting with Ten Hag after playing under him at Ajax.

    He has struggled to live up to expectations since arriving in England, only managing five goals and three assists in 54 Premier League appearances.

    Ten Hag, however, has refuted suggestions he convinced United to pay over the odds for a player he knew well from his time in the Eredivisie.

    The Dutchman also remains convinced the Brazilian will come good as he approaches his third season with the Red Devils.

    Speaking to AD Sportwereld, Ten Hag said of the deal to sign Antony: "I don't go over the budget. I've never even had a budget.

    "At United, the budgets lie with the owners and management. 

    "He certainly showed potential in the first month: he scored three times in his first three games. 

    "After that it became more difficult, last season was not good. But I am still convinced that he has the potential to play at this club."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.