Cristiano Ronaldo sets men's caps record and extends international goal mark

Portugal forward, restored to line up after World Cup dismay, makes 197th appearance for national team in 4-0 Euro 2024 qualifying win against Liechtenstein in Lisbon

Soccer Football - UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifiers - Group J - Portugal v Liechtenstein - Estadio Jose Alvalade, Lisbon, Portugal - March 23, 2023 Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo reacts REUTERS / Pedro Nunes     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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Cristiano Ronaldo has become the all-time leading appearance maker in men’s international football – and marked the occasion by scoring twice on Thursday to extend his goals record.

The Portugal forward, dropped from his national team’s starting XI at the 2022 World Cup, returned to the line-up in his side’s opening Euro 2024 qualifier against Liechtenstein in Lisbon.

The match lifted Ronaldo to 197 caps for Portugal, surpassing Kuwait’s Bader Al Mutawa for the most international appearances in the men’s game.

The Al Nassr captain, who equalled the record when he came off the bench in the World Cup quarter-final defeat to Morocco in December, then extended his unprecedented goal tally, scoring twice in his side’s 4-0 win.

Ronaldo, 38, converted a 51st-minute penalty after Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva had put Portugal 2-0 up at Estadio Jose Alvalade before Ronaldo then drove home a free-kick 12 minutes later.

The double lifted Ronaldo’s international goals record to 120 – Iran’s Ali Daei sits second on 109 – while on Thursday he become also the first man to score 100 times in competitive internationals.

After the match, Ronaldo tweeted in his native Portuguese: “Such good feelings for playing again and scoring for our national team and in a special stadium for me. Proud to be the most capped player ever.”

The former Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus star, who signed for Saudi Arabia’s Nassr in late December, made his debut for Portugal in 2003.

In November, Ronaldo found the net in Portugal’s World Cup group opener against Ghana to become the first man to score in five World Cup finals tournaments. Restored on Thursday as national team captain, he now has 11 goals in his past nine appearances for club and country.

Roberto Martinez, overseeing his first match as Portugal manager, said: "It's a new cycle. It's important for a player to show commitment and that we can use his experience. Cristiano has that: a lot of experience and a lot of commitment to the national team.”

Drawn in Group J alongside Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Slovakia and Luxembourg, 2016 European champions Portugal take on the latter away on Sunday.

Updated: March 24, 2023, 1:34 PM