Portugal and Ronaldo hungry for more

Captain Cristiano Ronaldo lifting the Nations League trophy after Portugal beat the Netherlands 1-0 in Sunday’s final in Porto.
Captain Cristiano Ronaldo lifting the Nations League trophy after Portugal beat the Netherlands 1-0 in Sunday’s final in Porto. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PORTO • For Portugal, success begets success, forging an "almost indestructible family" mentality.

So long the nearly men on the international stage, their Euro 2016 triumph - the country's first title - was a culmination of a golden period during which they have also reached the Euro 2004 final, the 2006 World Cup semi-finals and the last four at Euro 2012.

And after clinching the inaugural Nations League with a 1-0 win over the Dutch in Porto last Sunday, Portugal have every intention of continuing their winning momentum - starting with the defence of their European Championship title.

Long-serving manager Fernando Santos, who has been at the helm since 2014, said: "Sometimes, things are not perfect, but that is not for lack of effort. For the last five years, we know what we are capable of doing. We are always candidates to win the competitions we take part in."

He made two key chances for the final, introducing Danilo Pereira instead of Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves to give added protection to his team's backline, while replacing burgeoning talent Joao Felix with Goncalo Guedes.

Both moves paid off as Valencia forward Guedes scored the winner and Porto enforcer Danilo subdued Barcelona-bound Frenkie de Jong, the key midfield cog for the Dutch.

Santos said his team must not stop evolving if they are to lift more silverware. He added: "The future is here and now, right outside the door. If we look back to 2016, some of those players are no longer here - this is an ongoing process."

New blood like Benfica forward Felix - one of Europe's hottest talents - have already been given their first taste of international football while there is a talented supporting cast led by Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva, who picked up the Player of the Tournament award.

Portugal's undisputed star Cristiano Ronaldo, 34, however, said he had no plans to retire as he still had the "same enthusiasm" from when he won his first cap at 18.

Despite being a peripheral presence in the final, the Juventus forward still had an impressive tournament after his hat-trick in the semi-final against Switzerland.

He told Portuguese TV channel RTP: "As long as I have the strength and motivation, I will continue to represent the colours of Portugal. When I am with the national team, I feel like at home."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 11, 2019, with the headline 'Portugal and Ronaldo hungry for more'. Print Edition | Subscribe