Portugal's talisman determined to erase memory of teenage tears
In victory, Cristiano Ronaldo will find the cameras. In defeat, the cameras will find him. He's never known it any other way
Published 09/07/2016 | 02:30
The Euro 2016 decider gives Portugal's star the opportunity to create a new portrait of his international career. This is his chance to right a wrong. He knows this final script well, the host team as overwhelming favourites.
Tomorrow, France will carry that pressure. In 2004, it was Portugal. Their path to destiny was halted by a Greek-shaped roadblock, a side that grafted their way to glory without offering entertainment value.
Ronaldo was devastated and his tears at full-time captured the mood of the nation.
"This is different," the Real Madrid star said, comparing this tournament to Euro 2004.
"I was 18, that was my first final. My debut. Now 12 years have gone by and now we are going to play another final. I am very proud of that.
"I have always dreamed of winning for Portugal, I hope it is our turn now.
"I am very confident and I believe that all these boys deserve it. I deserve it, Portugal deserves it, the fans deserve it - every single Portuguese person deserves it. They've been amazing supporters.
"We've yet to win anything but it's the final. I don't think many people thought that Portugal would make it to the final, but we are there.
"That fills me with pride, I am very happy. Now we have to get ready and we want to make this dream true."
Ronaldo approaches the match fresh from another historic display, having equalled Michel Platini's record of nine European Championship goals.
"Record-breaking is something very nice," he said. "I have broken many records before and I am still breaking records for club and country, but this all comes naturally and the crucial thing was to reach the final.
"I am very happy and I am very proud of all my team-mates. Me and the boys have always dreamt of being there. Now it's almost there.
"I've always dreamt of winning something for Portugal and now it's just one step away. Dreaming is free so let's keep dreaming."
Few could have foreseen Portugal making the July 10 finale having finished third in Group F behind Hungary and Iceland.
Fernando Santos' side had not even won a match inside 90 minutes until Wednesday's semi-final in Lyon, but relentlessly-confident Ronaldo says his belief never wavered.
"This is something that I wanted after winning the Champions League," he said.
"I believed in my heart we would go far in the Euro. Maybe it didn't start off as well as we wanted it to but this is not a 100 metres dash, this is a marathon.
"We got past the group stages to the knockout stages.
"When you think of Nani, Renato (Sanches) and (Ricardo) Quaresma who has also scored, we're all a team. Portugal is not all about me."