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Cristiano Ronaldo joins World Cup elite

Cristiano Ronaldo has landed another chance to win the biggest prize in soccer and will join an elite club when he plays in the World Cup finals.

“The years go by, but the objectives always remain the same,” Ronaldo wrote on Instagram on Wednesday, the day after Portugal’s play-off win over North Macedonia sealed their place in Qatar.

He will now join four other players who’ve made it to five World Cups — Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (1998-2014), Mexico defender Rafael Marquez (2002-18), Germany midfielder Lothar Matthaeus (1982-98) and Mexico goalkeeper Antonio Carbajal (1950-66).

Others with a chance to join Ronaldo by playing in Qatar are Argentine great Lionel Messi, Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa and Mexico midfielder Andres Guardado, who also have been to four World Cups.

Ronaldo will be playing in his 10th straight major tournament in a streak that started at the 2004 European Championship and includes four World Cups and four other European tournaments, a competition he helped Portugal win in 2016.

Ronaldo is the only player to have scored at least once in nine top tournaments in a row, and will be able to extend many of his international records in Qatar, including his 115-goal mark with the national team.

He is also just two goals shy of Eusebio’s record nine goals for Portugal in World Cup finals matches.

In 17 World Cup games, Ronaldo has six wins, six losses and five draws.

He also has two assists in those matches, and that’s how he helped his team win on Tuesday, setting up the opening goal by Bruno Fernandes in the first half in Porto.

“Goal accomplished,” Ronaldo said after the match. “We made it to the World Cup in Qatar. We are where we deserve to be.”

It will be the sixth straight World Cup appearance for Portugal, whose best campaign was a third-place finish in 1966 and a fourth-place run in 2006 in Ronaldo’s first attempt.

They were eliminated in the round of 16 in 2010 and 2018, and didn’t make it past the group stage in 2014.

Ronaldo would be 41 by the time the 2026 World Cup comes around, and he had said before Tuesday’s match he was beginning to be bothered by the repeated questions on how long he planned to keep playing.

Those questions will likely be gone for now, because everyone knows there will be at least one more World Cup for Ronaldo.

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