Cristiano Ronaldo to reach 100 caps for Portugal against Northern Ireland


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The Independent Football

Northern Ireland would already have been fearful ahead of their World Cup qualifier against Portugal, but will be even more nervous knowing Cristiano Ronaldo has something to celebrate in Porto.

Should the Real Madrid forward play a part tomorrow night, he will reach 100 caps for his country to become only the third centurion in the history of the national side, alongside Luis Figo and Fernando Couto.

Ironically, Ronaldo's first appearance for Portugal was as a substitute to replace Figo, and it is a moment the world's most expensive player holds dear.

"It was on August 20th, 2003, against Kazakhstan, that I put on our national shirt for the first time. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life and a path which I am proud of," Ronaldo wrote on his Facebook page.

At the age of 27, it seems likely that Ronaldo will go on to topple Figo's 127 cap record. The former Manchester United player will become one of the youngest European footballers to reach 100 caps behind Germany's Lukas Podolski and Estonia's Kristen Viikmae.

"On Tuesday, I will reach my 100th cap next to my people and only with a victory in mind. I would like to thank all of those who helped me reach this point and will pack the stadium cheering for us," Ronaldo wrote.

Figo himself has been talking up the significance of tomorrow night's match at the Dragao Stadium.

"The 100th cap is a round number, behind which many sacrifices are hidden, many joys, and also the constant desire to always move forward," said the former Real Madrid and Barcelona winger.

Portugal manager Paulo Bento simply wants Ronaldo to prepare for the match as usual.

"I do not expect anything different from him because of the fact that he is getting his 100th cap.

"I know that is a figure very few players will reach but I don't foresee anything special because of that reason.

"What I expect from him is to integrate into the structure we have got and to show all of his ability and quality in the match."

The match is key for Portugal in their bid for World Cup qualification after they lost to Russia on Friday night. They will be eager to get back to winning ways in Porto, although Nortern Ireland captain Aaron Hughes has garnered optimism after watching Friday's match.

"We can't expect to have even 50 per cent possession," said Hughes

"Russia were dominated by Portugal and won, but that's maybe what we want to do - sit and defend and hit them on the counter attack."

Northern Ireland are yet to win in Group F, having lost to Russia and drawn against Luxembourg.