Cristiano Ronaldo set a new men’s international appearance record on Thursday, scoring twice in Portugal’s 4-0 win over Liechtenstein in Euro 2024 qualifying.
The 38-year-old, who was dropped from Portugal’s first-choice XI during the World Cup in Qatar last year, earned his 197th cap as a starter in Lisbon.
He scored a penalty in the 51st minute, following goals from Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva, before drilling home a free kick 12 minutes later.
It was Ronaldo’s 120th goal for his country, making him the first man to score 100 goals in competitive internationals.
“Records motivate me,” Ronaldo told reporters on Wednesday.
“I want to be the player with the most caps in history.” That would make me very happy.
“But it doesn’t stop there; I still want to be called up on a regular basis.”
Ronaldo made his international debut in 2003 and last year became the first man to score in five World Cups before Portugal lost in the quarterfinals to Morocco.
He is currently playing for Saudi club Al Nassr after leaving Manchester United in an acrimonious split.
Ronaldo’s appearance off the bench in Morocco’s defeat matched the previous record of 196 caps held by Kuwait’s Bader Al-Mutawa.
He sobbed as he walked off the pitch after Portugal’s 1-0 loss to the North Africans.
Ronaldo has scored nine goals in ten games for Al Nassr since leaving Europe.
During the World Cup, he was replaced as the starting striker by Goncalo Ramos, who scored a hat-trick against Switzerland in the last 16.
Ronaldo is the team’s captain.
But, after the tournament, veteran coach Fernando Santos stepped down, and new boss Roberto Martinez immediately put his faith in Ronaldo, who also captained the team.
There were questions about whether Ronaldo’s 20-year international career had come to an end in Qatar, given that he will be 39 by the time Euro 2024 begins.
Martinez, who stepped down as Belgium coach after the World Cup, has defended his decision to keep Ronaldo on the team.
“I don’t look at age,” Martinez said when announcing his first squad last week.
The Spaniard added that his squad announcement was the “starting point” for Euro 2024, implying that Ronaldo will play if Portugal qualifies for the tournament in Germany.
Portugal kicked off their qualification campaign with a resounding victory over Liechtenstein.
Cancelo scored the game’s only goal in the eighth minute, but the floodgates opened after the break.
Bernardo Silva doubled the lead less than two minutes later, before Ronaldo converted a penalty in the bottom corner.
To complete the scoring, a powerful free-kick from the edge of the box flew through the hands of goalkeeper Benjamin Buchel.
Ronaldo was substituted late in the game for Ramos, putting the much-anticipated changing of the guard on hold.
Ronaldo adds the international appearance milestone to his impressive list of personal achievements.
With 14 goals in European Championship finals, he holds the record for most goals scored in the Champions League.
Ronaldo has also been the top scorer in three of Europe’s top five leagues: England, Spain, and Italy.
On Sunday, Portugal will travel to Luxembourg for their second Group J qualifier.
They are also grouped with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, and Slovakia.