From clapping to smiling to singing, Cristiano Ronaldo took a few moments to celebrate with his Portugal teammates after qualifying for what would be his record-tying fifth World Cup.
The highest scorer in men’s international football has never won the sport’s biggest prize, but he will get another chance this year in Qatar.
“The years go by, but the objectives always remain the same,” Ronaldo wrote on Instagram on Wednesday.
Four other players have made it to five World Cups — Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon from 1998-2014, Mexico defender Rafael Marquez from 2002-18, Germany midfielder Lothar Matthaeus from 1982-98 and Mexico goalkeeper Antonio Carbajal from 1950-66. Buffon was in the Italy squad in 1998 but didn’t play in the tournament.
Others with a chance to join Ronaldo by playing in Qatar are Argentine great Lionel Messi, Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa and Mexico midfielder Andres Guardado, who also have been to four World Cups. Spain defender Sergio Ramos also took part in four World Cups, but he hasn’t been called up by coach Luis Enrique recently.
Ronaldo will be playing in his 10th straight major tournament in a streak that started at the 2004 European Championship and includes four World Cups and four other European tournaments, a competition he helped Portugal win in 2016.
Ronaldo is the only player to have scored at least once in nine top tournaments in a row, and will be able to extend many of his international records in Qatar, including his 115-goal mark with the national team. He also is the active Portugal player with the most World Cup goals with seven, two shy of Eusebio’s nine.
In 17 World Cup games, Ronaldo has six wins, six losses and five draws. He has two assists in those matches, and that’s how he helped his team win on Tuesday, setting up the opening goal by Bruno Fernandes in the first half at the Estadio do Dragao in Porto. Fernandes added the second after halftime.
“Goal accomplished,” Ronaldo said after the match. “We made it to the World Cup in Qatar. We are where we deserve to be.”
It will be the sixth straight World Cup appearance for Portugal, whose best campaign was a third-place finish in 1966 and a fourth-place run in 2006 in Ronaldo’s first attempt. Portugal were eliminated in the round of 16 in 2010 and 2018, and didn’t make it past the group stage in 2014.
Ronaldo’s Instagram post on Tuesday came with a photo of himself and his long-time friend Pepe, the 39-year-old veteran defender who will also likely be playing in his final World Cup.
Ronaldo would be 41 by the time the 2026 World Cup comes around, and he had said before Tuesday’s match he was beginning to be bothered by the repeated questions on how long he planned to keep playing.
Those questions will likely be gone for now, because everyone knows there will be at least one more World Cup for Ronaldo.