Cristiano Ronaldo is determined to make his country’s dreams come true after spearheading Portugal to the Euro 2016 final.
Wednesday was a seventh semi-final at a major tournament for the Portuguese and resulted in just their second-ever final, 12 years on from embarrassingly falling to surprise package Greece on home soil.
The Euro 2004 defeat still rankles with Ronaldo and the Real Madrid attacker is now tantalisingly close to making amends, having led Portugal to a 2-0 win against Wales in Lyon.
The 31-year-old’s incredible header early in the second half was followed three minutes later by Nani turning home his shot, sending them into Sunday’s Stade de France finale against world champions Germany or hosts France.
“This is different,” the man of the match said, comparing this tournament to Euro 2004.
“I was 18, that was my first final. My debut. Now 12 years have gone by and now we are going to play another final. I am very proud of that.
“I have always dreamed of winning for Portugal, I hope it is our turn now.
“I am very confident and I believe that all these boys deserve it. I deserve it, Portugal deserves it, the fans deserve it – every single Portuguese person deserves it. They’ve been amazing supporters.
“We’ve yet to win anything but it’s the final. I don’t think many people thought that Portugal would make it to the final, but we are there.
“That fills me with pride, I am very happy. Now we have to get ready for Sunday and we want to make this dream true.”
Ronaldo approaches the match fresh from another historic display, having equalled Michel Platini’s record of nine European Championship goals.
“Record-breaking is something very nice,” he said.
“I have broken many records before and I am still breaking records for club and country, but this all comes naturally and the crucial thing was to reach the final.
“I am very happy and I am very proud of all my team-mates. Me and the boys have always dreamt of being there. Now it’s almost there.
“I’ve always dreamt of winning something for Portugal and now it’s just one step away. Dreaming is free so let’s keep dreaming.”
Few could have foreseen Portugal making the July 10 finale having finished third in Group F behind Hungary and Iceland.
Fernando Santos’ side had not even won a match inside 90 minutes until Wednesday’s semi-final in Lyon, but relentlessly-confident Ronaldo says his belief never wavered.
“This is something that I wanted after winning the Champions League,” he said.
“I believed in my heart we would go far in the Euro. Maybe it didn’t start off as well as we wanted it to but this is not a 100 metres dash, this is a marathon.
“We got past the group stages to the knockout stages.
“When you think of Nani, Renato (Sanches) and (Ricardo) Quaresma who has also scored, we’re all a team. Portugal is not all about me.”