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Cristiano Ronaldo speaks for first time since shock World Cup exit

<i>Jose Sena Goulao/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock</i><br/>Ronaldo was benched for two consecutive games.
Jose Sena Goulao/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Ronaldo was benched for two consecutive games.

By Wayne Sterling, CNN

A day after leaving the 2022 World Cup in tears as his chances to win the tournament for the first time in his career were shattered, Portugal superstar striker Cristiano Ronaldo said bringing a World Cup title to Portugal was “the biggest and most ambitious dream” of his career but “the dream was beautiful while it lasted.”

Portugal was shocked 1-0 by Morocco in the quarterfinals on Saturday.

“To win a World Cup for Portugal was the biggest and most ambitious dream of my career,” Ronaldo wrote on Instagram on Sunday.

“Fortunately, I won a lot of titles of international dimension, including Portugal, but to put the name of our country in the highest level in the world was my biggest dream.

“I fought for it. I fought a lot for that dream. In the 5 times I was present in World Cups throughout 16 years, always next to great players and supported by millions of Portuguese, I gave it my all. I left everything on the field. I never faced away from the fight and I never gave up on that dream.”

It is likely the 37-year-old’s final appearance at a World Cup. He began Portugal’s round of 16 and quarterfinal games as a substitute after being benched by the team’s coach Fernando Santos.

Ronaldo continued: “Unfortunately, yesterday that dream ended. There’s no point in reacting hot-headed. I just want everyone to know that a lot has been said, a lot was written, a lot was speculated, but my dedication to Portugal didn’t change even for a second. I was always just one [person] fighting for everyone’s goal and I would never turn my back against my mates and my country.”

Brazilian soccer great Pelé and Ronaldo’s two sisters were among many who commented on his post.

Pelé wrote, “Thank you for making us smile, my friend.”

Ronaldo’s sister Elma Aveiro said, “Absolutely my love, you gave your heart to Portugal.”

His other sister, Katia Aveiro, added one word: “Proud!”

In his 22 World Cup appearances, Ronaldo has scored eight goals and earlier in this year’s tournament he became the first man to score in five World Cups.

However, his benching by Santos and his recent contract termination from Manchester United, which was announced just after the World Cup started, arguably overshadowed Ronaldo’s time at Qatar 2022, a tournament where he scored just one goal.

“For now, there is not much else to say,” he added. “Thank you, Portugal. Thank you, Qatar. The dream was beautiful while it lasted… Now, we wait for what time will tell and allow everyone to take their own conclusions.”

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Mia Alberti, Vasco Cotovio and Ben Morse contributed to this report.

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