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My dream of winning World Cup has ‘ended’, says Ronaldo

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo reacts after missing an opportunity to score during the World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Morocco and Portugal, at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
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DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo said in a cryptic social media post that his dream of winning the World Cup with Portugal has ended, while stopping short of announcing his retirement from international duty.

The 37-year-old Ronaldo left the field in tears after Portugal lost 1-0 to Morocco in the quarterfinals on Saturday.

In his first comments after the elimination, Ronaldo said Sunday that it was “time to take stock” without saying explicitly if he wants to carry on being available for Portugal after 19 years in the national team.

“There’s no point in reacting rashly,” Ronaldo wrote on Instagram. “I just want everybody to know that a lot has been said, a lot has been written, a lot has been speculated about, but my dedication to Portugal has never wavered for an instant.

“I’ve always been just one more (Portuguese) fighting for everyone’s goal. I would never turn my back on my teammates or my country.”

Ronaldo, who is the all-time leading scorer in men’s international soccer with 118 goals, said putting Portugal “on the highest level in the world” was his biggest dream.

“In my five appearances at World Cups over 16 years, always playing alongside great players and supported by millions of Portuguese, I have given my all,” he wrote. “I left everything I had on the pitch. I’ll never shrink from a battle and I have never given up on that dream.

“Unfortunately, that dream ended yesterday.”

Ronaldo said he would now “let everyone draw their own conclusions.”

“For now. There’s not much else to say. Thank you, Portugal. Thank you, Qatar. The dream was beautiful as long as it lasted.”

The next major tournament is the European Championship in 2024. The next World Cup will be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico in 2026, by which time Ronaldo will be 41 years old.

Ronaldo is without a club after leaving Manchester United during the World Cup in the wake of an explosive interview before the tournament when he criticized the manager, board and his teammates at the English club.

His only goal at the World Cup was a penalty against Ghana in Portugal’s opening group game. He became the first male player to score at five World Cups.

Ronaldo started on the bench for Portugal’s games in the last 16 — a 6-1 victory over Switzerland — and the quarterfinals.

Before the game against Morocco, Portugal coach Fernando Santos denied reports Ronaldo threatened to leave the World Cup after being told he wasn’t going to be in the starting lineup against Switzerland.