4 reasons why Cristiano Ronaldo will break Ali Daei's record of most international goals
When Iranian legend Ali Daei retired from football, he did so as not only Iran's greatest proponent of the game, but also as the most potent goalscorer on the men's international stage.
The former Bayern Munich man scored a massive 109 goals from just 149 matches. And the fact that he retired as the only player to have scored 90 let alone 100 goals on the international scene made many believe his record would be an ever-lasting one.
However, it is not as ever-lasting as many thought, as just 13 years on, the record is under serious threat of being broken - by a man who is no stranger to breaking and setting records.
Cristiano Ronaldo had scored the only goal in a 1-0 defeat of Morocco at the last World Cup to move him on to 85 goals and past the legendary Ferenc Puskas as the highest goalscorer on the international stage in Europe. And with other legends like Pele and Lionel Messi way behind him, there was only one man in his sights.
Even then, the difference of 24 goals was seen as a mountain too difficult to climb for Ronaldo. But if there is one thing the Real Madrid legend has shown throughout his career, it is that the word 'impossible' does not exist in his lexicon.
Ronaldo sat out the rest of Portugal's international fixtures in 2018 after the World Cup and injuries hampered his contributions upon his return in March of 2019. But he returned with a bang, scoring a hat-trick to power Portugal past Switzerland in the semifinal of the Nations League, and captaining them to a triumph in the final.
The five-time Ballon d'Or winner continued his good form in front of goal with another strike against Serbia in Euro 2020 qualification, and followed that up with a four-goal haul against Lithuania.
The tally marked the second time he had scored four goals in a single game for Portugal, while bringing his total international hat-tricks to eight and a career total of 53.
Unsurprisingly, a number of records were also set in the process. With 25 goals, Ronaldo is now the all-time leading goal-scorer in European Championship qualifiers, while Lithuania were also the 40th different country he had scored against.
Suddenly, he is now just 16 goals behind Daei. And while there might still be some way to go before he breaks the record, it is very likely that Ronaldo will eventually become the highest scoring player on the international scene.
In this piece, we look at four reasons why Ronaldo will break Ali Daei's record in the near future.
#1 Lots of favorable opposition coming up
Portugal are one of the most illustrious footballing nations in Europe, and this status guarantees that they will always receive favorable draws when groupings for World Cup and Euro Qualifications are made.
They generally avoid the big guns like Spain, France, England and Germany, and are usually pitted with some average teams as well as recent upstarts and relative minnows.
A look at Portugal's current group for the qualifiers shows that they are drawn with Serbia, Luxembourg, Ukraine and Lithuania. With all due respect to the listed nations, none of them is exactly a superpower in the men's game, and Portugal are significantly stronger.
While Ukraine and Serbia can boast of some success in the game, having produced some fine players in the past such as Andriy Shevchenko and Nemanja Vidic, Luxembourg and Lithuania are two of the weakest footballing nations in Europe. They are rightly regarded as whipping boys of the group.
With four matches played in qualification already, Portugal still have four to come. They will host Luxembourg at home in the next round of fixtures in October, and they will also play Lithuania at home in November before traveling to Luxembourg some days later.
These three fixtures represent an excellent opportunity for Ronaldo to bolster his scoring record. While he might nudge one or two against Serbia and Ukraine, the odds are heavily stacked for him to bang in more goals against the aforementioned duo.
Furthermore, with the draws for the 2022 World Cup qualification series set to come up, Portugal would once more maintain their status as one of the seeded teams and would get some weaker teams in their group, giving Ronaldo more opportunities to break Daei's record.