Portugal's forward Cristiano Ronaldo (left) vies for a header with Liechtenstein's midfielder Noah Frommelt during the UEFA Euro 2024 qualification match between Portugal and Liechtenstein at the Jose Alvalade stadium in Lisbon on March 23, 2023. (PHOTO / AFP)
LISBON - Cristiano Ronaldo set a new record for the most international caps as Portugal played Liechtenstein on Thursday and celebrated the milestone with a record-extending goal.
Ronaldo, who turned 38 last month, won his 197th cap, surpassing Kuwait's Bader Al-Mutawa, as he returned to the starting line-up and captained his country in their Euro 2024 Group J qualifier at the Jose Alvalade Stadium.
He converted a 51st-minute penalty – his first goal against the tiny Alpine principality – as the home side went 3-0 up after being only one goal ahead at the break.
It extended Ronaldo's record for the most goals in international football to 119, although he had earlier missed gilt-edged chances when he skied the ball in front of goal and glanced a header wide.
"I like to break records, I have broken lot of records," he told reporters on the eve of Thursday’s match, which marked the first game in charge of new Portugal coach Roberto Martinez.
"I look for commitment," said Martinez. "And Ronaldo has huge commitment to the national team, is a major figure for it, and has experience he can pass on."
Portugal's Joao Cancelo makes an attempt to score ahead Liechtenstein's goalkeeper Benjamin Buchel during the Euro 2024 group J qualifying soccer match between Portugal and Liechtenstein at the Jose Alvalade stadium in Lisbon, Portugal, on March 23, 2023. (PHOTO / AP)
Martinez said matches against smaller teams could become traps but that the Portuguese had made the perfect start.
"It was very, very positive," Martinez told Portuguese television.
"It was an obvious next step from the attitude and the work we did in training. It is always very difficult to play this type of game, they are 'trap games', but the way we played with the ball and how we smothered the danger of Liechtenstein was very important."
Martinez restored Ronaldo to the starting line-up after he had been benched for their last two games of the World Cup and was delighted with the 38-year-old’s contribution.
"It's a new cycle. It's important for a player to show commitment and that we can use his experience, and Cristiano shows that," the coach added.
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