Cristiano Ronaldo’s career with the national team has been a long, windy road with plenty of bumps along the way.
Ronaldo, who finally got the reward he deserved this summer, started on that road thirteen years ago this week.
The superstar debuted on August 20, 2003 in a 1-0 friendly victory over Kazakhstan just ten days after sealing his move to Manchester United.
Unlike virtually everything concerning Cristiano, the match itself was rather forgettable.
His Portugal career, on the other hand, has been quite the opposite.
The following summer, Ronaldo starred in his home country at Euro 2004.
Despite his fantastic performances, Portugal came up just short, and the lasting image of the tournament was a young Ronaldo in tears.
Two years later, Portugal fought their way through some incredibly memorable games, including “The Battle of Nuremburg” and the Ronaldo wink incident to reach the semi-finals.
Once again for Portugal, it wasn’t to be as they lost 1-0 to France.
Disappointing tournaments in 2008 and 2010 followed, before another semi-final appearance in Euro 2012.
The lasting image for Portugal this tournament was Cristiano Ronaldo waiting to take the fifth penalty in the shootout against Spain. Cristiano never got the chance to take the penalty after misses from Joao Moutinho and Bruno Alves.
The 2014 World Cup was a disaster for Cristiano and Portugal. Ronaldo entered the tournament carrying a knee injury and a win against Ghana wasn’t enough to get out of the group stages after an embarrassing 4-0 defeat to Germany and a draw with the Americans.
It looked as if 2016 would end in heartbreak once again, as Ronaldo was forced to leave the match in tears with a first half injury.
However, with the help of Ronaldo’s encouragement from the sidelines, Portugal defeated France in extra-time.
Nobody can ever take away what Cristiano means to the country of Portugal and the game of football.