It’s official: Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo has surpassed Iran legend Ali Daei to become the greatest goal scorer that men’s international football has ever seen.
The 36-year-old, who last month rejoined Manchester United from Juventus in a sensational move late in the summer transfer window, bagged his 110th goal (and, in injury time, his 111th) for his country to seal a dramatic 2-1 win over the Republic of Ireland in Faro on Wednesday in his 180th senior international appearance (stream the replay on ESPN+ in the U.S.).
After having a penalty saved by Ireland’s Gavin Bazunu in the first half, Ronaldo notched two almost-identical headers after the 89th minute to turn the game around for Portugal. The first was converted unmarked from a Goncalo Guedes cross, while the second in the sixth minute of injury time was from a Joao Mario delivery, both coming in from the right flank. He was booked for excessive celebration following the second goal.
Ronaldo had drawn level with Daei with the second of his two penalties against France in a Euro 2020 group stage game in Budapest. After that 2-2 draw Daei, who netted 109 times in 149 games during a 13-year international career before retiring in 2007, offered a personal tribute to Ronaldo on social media.
“I am honoured that this remarkable achievement will belong to Ronaldo — [a] great champion of football and caring humanist who inspires and impacts lives throughout the world,” the 52-year-old wrote.
Ronaldo has a long way to go before he is close to the top women’s international goal scorer: Canada‘s Christine Sinclair has scored 187 goals in 304 games, most recently this summer as she helped her country to win gold at the Tokyo Olympics. Still, his latest record is an incredible feat, and it can be added to his ridiculously long list of ground-breaking achievements on the field.
18 years at the top with Portugal
Ronaldo has enjoyed a phenomenal career, from emerging as a wiry winger at Sporting Lisbon and Manchester United to becoming a formidable goal-scoring machine with Real Madrid and Juventus. But his goals for Portugal have been constant almost from the very start.
After making his senior debut in 2003, Ronaldo’s first international goal came against Greece in the opening match at Euro 2004. From that point, he has averaged 6.47 goals per calendar year for his country.
🗓 #OnThisDay in 2004:
— UEFA.com DE (@UEFAcom_de) June 12, 2019
The most he’s ever notched during a calendar year was his 14 goals in 2019, which included a hat trick against Switzerland in June, a four-goal haul against Lithuania in September and then another hat trick against Lithuania two months later.
Age appears to be no barrier either, with Ronaldo scoring 59 goals for Portugal in 62 games since turning 30 in February 2015. Before then, he’d “only” scored 52 goals in 118 games.
How and when he scores
A breakdown of Ronaldo’s international goals proves that he is no one-trick pony when it comes to the ways in which he finds the net, and that he is more effective the closer to the end of a match he gets.
Method of scoring
Right foot: 59 goals
Time of goals
1-15 minutes: 10
46-60 minutes: 12
First half: 43
Second half: 68
Oh, and before you cry foul over the set-piece duties that give him extra chances to score, only 14 of his international goals have come from the penalty spot. He’s also scored 10 from direct free kicks, with perhaps his most memorable being the late strike which sealed a 3-3 draw against Spain in their opening group game at the 2018 World Cup. Ronaldo, naturally, scored all three of his side’s goals in that thriller in Sochi.
What a moment this was… 🤯
One year ago today, @Cristiano did this.
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) June 15, 2019
Who has he scored (and not scored) against?
Ronaldo has faced 68 different countries with Portugal during his international career so far, with his first ever goals against Ireland on Wednesday meaning he has scored against 45 different national teams.
The most goals he has scored against a single opponent (Lithuania) is seven, coming in just three games. He has also scored seven goals against Sweden over the years, but spread across seven appearances and against different goalkeepers.
Most goals scored against one team (appearances in brackets):
7: Lithuania (3), Sweden (7)
6: Luxembourg (9), Andorra (3), Hungary (6)
5: Armenia (4), Latvia (4)
Most goals scored against one goalkeeper:
7: Ernestas Setkus (Lithuania)
6: Josep Gomes (Andorra)
5: Roman Berezovskiy (Armenia)
Cristiano Ronaldo loves facing these countries 💪🇵🇹 pic.twitter.com/6j8nzIu0KT
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 24, 2021
Goals by international competition breakdown (appearances in brackets):
33: World Cup qualifying (42)
31: European Championship qualifying (35)
19: Friendly (51)
14: European Championship (25)
7: World Cup (17)
5: Nations League (5)
2: Confederations Cup (4)
Other Ronaldo records
While the latest addition to his haul is undoubtedly one of the most impressive, there is already a long list of individual records that Ronaldo holds.
Some of the stats involved are scarcely believable as is, and they just seem to go on and on.
– Portugal’s all-time top scorer: 111 (Pauleta is second with 47)
– Most goals at men’s European Championship: 14 (Michel Platini is second with nine)
– Most goals across both men’s World Cups and Euros finals combined: 21 (Miroslav Klose has 19)
– Top all-time scorer in men’s Euros, including qualifiers: 45
– Scored at most individual men’s Euros tournaments: 5 (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020)
– Most goals by a European player in men’s competitive internationals: 91
– Most men’s international hat tricks by a European player: 9 (joint with Sven Rydell of Sweden, 1923-1932)
Goal-scoring records from club football
– Champions League all-time men’s top scorer: 134 (Lionel Messi second with 120)
– Only player to score in three Champions League finals
– Only player to score in 11 consecutive Champions League matches
– Scored more Champions League goals against a single opponent than anyone else (10 vs. Juventus)
– First player to be top scorer for a league season in England, Spain and Italy
– Real Madrid’s top goal scorer of all-time (450 in 438 appearances)
ESPN’s Stats & Information Group contributed to this report.
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