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Ronaldo vs. Mbappe: The clash of generations at Euro 2024 has been given some extra spice

HAMBURG: Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Kylian Mbappe.

Clash of football icons. Clash of generations.

They will go head-to-head when Portugal take on France in the quarter-finals of Euro 2024 on Friday and this heavyweight encounter could have been a little bigger.

“Without a doubt this is my last European Championship,” Ronaldo, 39, said after his tearful, emotional performance in Portugal’s last-16 penalty shoot-out victory over Slovenia.

This may have just confirmed what many assumed anyway.

Yet there is now a definite specter of finality to Ronaldo’s long, headline-grabbing European adventure, which could be ended by Mbappe, the heir apparent to Ronaldo and Lionel Messi after their years of dominance in the sport.

Mbappe grew up with pictures of Ronaldo on his bedroom wall.

Inevitably, a photo of their apparent first meeting at Real Madrid’s Valdebebas training ground in 2012, when 13-year-old Mbappe stood next to Ronaldo after visiting the Spanish club where his sporting hero was a star player, is inevitably circulating on social media.

In 2020, Mbappe tweeted, now X, that Ronaldo was his “idol”.

And just a few months ago, Ronaldo reacted to Mbappe securing a much-anticipated move to Madrid, writing on Instagram: “Excited to see you light up the Bernabeu.”

That Mbappe can now end Ronaldo’s career at the European Championships – who knows, it might even be his last major tournament – adds interesting subtext to a game that will be watched around the world.

“Let’s go, let’s go to war,” Ronaldo said of the match against France, who he considers the best candidate for Euro 2024 along with Spain.

He said he was brought to tears against Slovenia not by the prospect of being eliminated, but because his main motivation these days is to “make people happy” and saved a penalty in extra time.

“I am moved by all the means of football – the enthusiasm I have for the game, the enthusiasm to see my supporters, my family, the affection people have for me.”

“It is not about leaving the world of football. What else can I do or win?”

Ronaldo enters Friday’s game having failed to score in eight consecutive matches at major tournaments – Portugal’s last four at World Cup 2022 and four at Euro 2024 – and with growing concerns over whether he deserves what appears to be a guaranteed place at tournaments. a team led by Roberto Martinez.

It wasn’t easy for Mbappe at Euro 2024 either.

He broke his nose in France’s opening group game against Austria and has been wearing a protective mask during matches ever since. Mbappe scored one goal from a penalty against Poland – the only goal scored by a French player at this Euro.

“He will have to get used to it,” France coach Didier Deschamps said of Mbappé and his mask, “because he will have to wear it for a few weeks – or even a few months – to protect (the nose).

Few would have tipped the top scorer of the last World Cup (Mbappe) and the record scorer in men’s international football (Ronaldo) to have just one goal between them by the quarter-finals.

But no one will be surprised if they come alive in Hamburg, with so much pressure and opportunity.

Remember that Mbappe scored a hat-trick in the World Cup final and was scoring goals like Ronaldo in the first part of his career. At the age of 25, he already has 48 goals for France and also has 48 goals in the Champions League from 73 games.

He is chasing Ronaldo’s scoring records at both international level (130) and Champions League level (140) and is likely to succeed only by displaying the same undisguised passion and drive as the player he copied as a child.

As the captains of their countries, they shake hands and hug each other before kick-off. You can bet they will do the same after the match.

At that time, one of them will be on his way home.

There will surely be another European Championship for Mbappe.

This could be the end of the road for Ronaldo.

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