The full story behind Cristiano Ronaldo’s 99 international goals for Portugal


Cristiano Ronaldo is one goal shy of scoring 100 goals for Portugal.

When he inevitably does, he will become just the second male player to hit a century.

Ali Daei scored 109 goals for Iran and his place as the all-time leading international scorer is under serious threat.

It’s a remarkable achievement and a testament to Ronaldo’s world-class abilities.

However, a further study of the 34-year-old’s international stats sheds differing light on his achievements.

Not with the intention of downplaying Ronaldo’s feats, The Athletic’s Oliver Kay has penned a piece titled: ‘Ronaldo’s 99 goals for Portugal are not a true measure of his greatness’.

Portugal v Lithuania - UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier

Ronaldo has been on a tear since Euro 2016. It took him 12 years to score 55 international goals but he’s netted 44 times in the past four years.

But just look at Ronaldo’s post-Euro 2016 haul - and the quality of his opponents.

  • Four against Andorra
  • One against Faroe Islands
  • Two against Latvia
  • Two against Hungary
  • One against Sweden
  • Two against Latvia
  • One against Russia
  • One against New Zealand
  • Three against Faroe Islands
  • One against Andorra
  • Two against Egypt
  • Three against Spain
  • One against Morocco
  • Three against Switzerland
  • One against Serbia
  • Four against Lithuania
  • One against Luxembourg
  • One against Ukraine
  • Three against Lithuania
  • One against Luxembourg

The hat-trick against Spain was incredible. And it came on the biggest stage of them all, the World Cup.

But as Kay notes: “For the most apart, though, Ronaldo’s journey on the international stage since Euro 2016, taking him beyond Gerd Muller, Pele and Ferenc Puskas in the all-time goalscoring charts, has not required him to scale such heights.”

Twenty-three of his goals came against Luxembourg, Faroe Islands, New Zealand, Lithuania, Andorra and Latvia.

Respectively, those nations are ranked 96th, 110th, 121st, 132nd, 136th and 143rd in the FIFA rankings.


Of Ronaldo’s 99 goals, only seven have come at the World Cup. None have come in the knockout stages of the four World Cups he’s played in.

He’s performed better in the European Championships, scoring nine times. But only three have come in the knockout stages.


How has Ronaldo fared against the top nations?

In 24 games against the eight nations who have won the World Cup - Brazil, Italy, Germany, Uruguay, England, Argentina, France and Spain - the five-time Ballon dOr winner has scored a total of four goals.

“None of this is intended to sound iconoclastic; Ronaldo is a phenomenon whose claims to greatness have long been utterly irrefutable,” Kay adds.

“It is more a case of questioning whether the number of goals he has accumulated against Lithuania, Andorra, Latvia and Faroe Islands et al is even worth considering when it comes to trying to evaluate the precise degree of that greatness.”

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