Euro 2024: Cristiano Ronaldo lives to score goals – Pepe

Portugal defender Pepe has hailed the positive impact Cristiano Ronaldo is having in the national team despite the prolific forward having yet to score at Euro 2024.

Ronaldo, who is playing in a record sixth European Championship, has started in all three of Portugal’s games in Germany.

“Cristiano lives of goals, that’s a fact,” Pepe said in Friday’s news conference. “But have you seen his availability on the pitch to help the national team? It’s incredible. He’s the player with the most minutes in our team, at 39 years old.”

Portugal won their opening two games in Germany but suffered a surprise 2-0 loss to Georgia in their final group game.

They taken on Slovenia on Monday in the round of 16.

“We knew that this journey would not be easy, no matter how many of you said it was already won,” Pepe said. “It’s not like that and we knew it. You have to play 90 and, if necessary, 120 minutes. We want to do our best for our country and that’s what we’re going to do in the next game.”

Pepe is confident Ronaldo will deliver.

Ronaldo, who won the Golden Boot at Euro 2020 after finishing as the top scorer with five goals, went into this summer’s tournament having scored a Saudi Pro-League record 35 goals for Al Nassr.

He also warmed up for Euro 2024 by scoring twice in Portugal’s 3-0 triumph over the Republic of Ireland on June 11 to increase his international goal men’s record tally to 130.

“He’s doing very well,” Pepe said of Ronaldo. “He’ll do very well in the final stages of the European Championship. I’m certain he will give us a lot of joy.”

Pepe, like Ronaldo, lifted the European Championship in 2016. The veteran defender is the oldest player to compete at a European Championship aged 41.

“I’m just happy to be part of this group, it’s a privilege,” Pepe said. “The secret [of his longevity]? The passion I have for football. I’ve said several times that it’s a privilege to be able to get up and do what I love most with a lot of concentration and competitiveness, which is what I have.

“The love I put into every action, so much in training as in the game. That’s it.”

Asked if he will retire from the national team after Euro 2024, Pepe, who has represented Portugal since 2007, said: “I haven’t thought about it yet. My focus is on the next training session, on the next game, which important to me and to Portugal.”

Pepe also becomes a free agent in July after FC Porto confirmed that his contract will not be extended beyond this summer.

“I don’t think about it much, honestly,” Pepe said. “The future belongs to God, I have many things to worry about today, such as how I will defend my teammates in the training sessions ahead, how to recover for tomorrow’s training. Those are my concerns.”