Ronaldo to start against Turkey as his coach doubles down on support

Ronaldo to start against Turkey as his coach doubles down on support

Updated Jun. 21, 2024 12:53 p.m. ET

Cristiano Ronaldo was left in no doubt that he is still Portugal's main man on Friday, as head coach Roberto Martinez doubled down on his support for the veteran superstar.

Ronaldo came in for some criticism following his team's 2-1 victory over Czechia, raising questions about whether Martinez should consider using him in a substitute role against Turkey in Dortmund on Saturday (noon ET on FOX).

No chance, insisted Martinez, who said that despite not getting on the scoresheet, there were several elements of Ronaldo's game that had been critical to the win on Tuesday.


Furthermore, he urged Ronaldo's younger teammates to be more strategic in utilizing the attention given to the 39-year-old to create opportunities for themselves.

"Ronaldo had three shots on target and he was the striker with the greatest number in that category," Martinez told reporters.

"He was very disciplined and he worked very hard. The thing about Cristiano is that he is a poacher in the box. He will open space for other players. Conceicao's goal happened because Cristiano made space for him."

Martinez was referring to the late winner struck by young substitute Francisco Conceicao, who clinched all three points by reacting quickly at the near post when the ball fell to him.

Ronaldo was also in the vicinity of Robin Hranac when the under-pressure Czech defender deflected the ball into his own net for the equalizer.

"We are focused on what we want to do and Cristiano is very important for us," Martinez added. "He is important for us in the box, but the most important thing is for us to get into the box. We don't play direct football to our striker. We don't want one player in the box, we want four, five or six players moving to get close to the striker."

Did Ronaldo impress or disappoint vs. Czechia?

Portugal has ambitions to go all the way after being the only team to record a perfect record of 10 wins from 10 games in qualifying. Ronaldo has given no indication about when he plans to retire from international soccer, but given his age, the likelihood is that this is the final European Championship.

Martinez was not satisfied with the Czechia performance, despite it putting Portugal level with Turkey at the top of Group F. Several players revealed that his message in the locker room after the game was that things need to get significantly better.

"The most important thing is to review and go over what everybody did to see what we can improve," Martinez said. "The players don't need my notes. Some things we need to improve and everybody knows this. We had three practices that are very positive. Our players are ready – they are more ready than they were, and this is all part of our process."

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.


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