Euro 2016: Ronaldo will relish taking on all of France - Rio Ferdinand

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Ronaldo equals Euros record with powerful header
Portugal v France
Date: Sunday, 10 July Venue: Stade de France, Paris Kick-off: 20:00 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC One, BBC Radio 5 live and text commentary online & on BBC Sport app

Cristiano Ronaldo will relish taking on the whole of France in Sunday's Euro 2016 final, according to his former Manchester United team-mate Rio Ferdinand.

The 31-year-old Portugal captain has the chance to win the first international title of his glittering career when his side take on the tournament hosts at Stade de France.

"Everyone in the country will be against him, but he will thrive off that hostility, and off their fear," Ferdinand told BBC Sport.

"The French know Cristiano is the player capable of destroying their dream because he has produced magic moments in huge matches right through his career.

"Part of the reason he is a superstar is because he is not fazed by the big occasion - quite the opposite in fact.

"Superstars like him relish these situations - the pressure that goes with it brings the best out of him, when other players falter."

'This is his last chance with Portugal'

Cristiano Ronaldo after losing the final of Euro 2004
Ronaldo's only previous major international final ended in defeat

Ronaldo helped Portugal reach the final when they hosted Euro 2004, but was left crying on the pitch after defeat by Greece, and they have not reached this stage of a major tournament since.

"He was only 19 then, so just a kid," added Ferdinand, who played alongside Ronaldo at Old Trafford between 2003 and 2009 and is working in France as a BBC pundit.

"I remember his reaction but I think he was a bit too young to take it all in. At that age, you expect you will get back to another final soon to rectify what happened but he has had to wait 12 years for his chance.

Ronaldo is the joint-highest scorer in European Championship history

"I think he is very aware this is his last opportunity to win something with his country and, knowing him like I do, that makes him even more dangerous. He will be so desperate not to miss out again.

"Cristiano has produced great performances for Portugal when it matters before, for example his hat-trick against Sweden in the play-off for the 2014 World Cup.

"So France will know that it is not just in a Real Madrid or Manchester United shirt that he is capable of great things, especially because it was his moment of brilliance that helped decide Portugal's semi-final against Wales."

Ronaldo in the air - 'football's Michael Jordan'

Ronaldo leapt 7ft 10in to head home Portugal's opener - James Chester, who was marking him, is 5ft 10 in
Ronaldo leapt to a height of 7ft 10in to head home Portugal's opener against Wales - James Chester, who was marking him, is 5ft 10 in

Ronaldo is now the joint highest scorer in European Championship history with nine goals, and holds the record for most headed goals with five.

Two of them have come in France, most notably when he soared to nod Portugal in front against Wales, but Ferdinand says that part of Ronaldo's game is nothing new.

"He has always been amazing on the ball but even when he first joined United in 2003 he was great in the air too," he said.

"Early in his career it was a part of his game that was quite undervalued but he always scored a lot of headers and, the way he does it, he is the closest thing in football to basketball legend Michael Jordan.

"The way he jumps and hangs in the air is the same as Jordan and he has got the ability to stay up there, assess the situation and then put the ball where he wants to, with power.

"I will always remember the header he scored for United away at Roma in the Champions League quarter-finals in April 2008.

Ronaldo's header against Roma
From two different angles - Ronaldo soars to head home against Roma in 2008

"He more or less jumped on the edge of the box to meet a cross that Paul Scholes put over but he met the ball a good way inside the area. If you watch TV footage of that game, he just appears from nowhere and smashes it into the bottom corner.

"Just like his goal against Wales, it was an unbelievable jump and he generated incredible power. I was on the pitch that night, and it was amazing to see.

"Cristiano's heading ability will be a huge threat in the final too, along with Nani - another former United team-mate of mine.

"France have struggled to defend crosses for most of the tournament and, although they were better at it in the semi-final, Germany did not have anyone to aim at in the box."

What has changed? Fewer dazzling dribbles

Most dribbles at Euro 2016

Eighty-six players at Euro 2016 have completed more dribbles than the three Ronaldo has managed in six matches.

"He was always well known for his brilliant runs forward but his game is not about that any more," said Ferdinand, who was in the same United team as Ronaldo when he scored 42 goals in the 2007-08 season.

"Before, he used to exert a lot of energy trying to take people on from deep areas, running at goal from 30 or 40 yards, or even further out.

"Now, he is very clever in where he tries to receive the ball. It has to be in good positions and, when he gets it, he finds a yard of space and hits it - either a shot or a cross.

"Part of the reason he has been able to reinvent himself is because of how hard he works - right from the start of his career, when we were together at Old Trafford, he was totally committed to improving every part of his game.

"But to be able to re-evaluate his game and change it is also down to his football intelligence.

"Clearly he is clever - you do not score 50 goals a season, six seasons running, for Real Madrid if you are not.

"But his extra intelligence has allowed him to evolve as a player, understand his body, where it can take him and how often.

"He has become a much more efficient player, but is still an extremely effective one."

Getting the edge over Messi - can he do it?

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo
Messi has lost four finals at international level - one World Cup and three Copa Americas - while Ronaldo's only previous final for Portugal came at Euro 2004

Sunday offers Ronaldo the opportunity for personal glory too, with the chance to get one over Lionel Messi in the battle to be viewed as the best player in the world.

Messi has never won a major tournament for Argentina and announced his international retirement last month after they lost to Chile in the final of the Copa America.

"If Ronaldo wins the European Championship, it will be massive for him," said Ferdinand, 37.

"I don't think it will give him the edge over Messi in terms of who deserves the accolade of the best in the world, but it is a huge achievement.

"And it will matter to both of them, because there is a definite battle between them in their own minds about who has done what for club and country.

Lionel Messi
Messi missed a penalty in the shootout that decided the Copa America final in June as Argentina lost to Chile, their fourth major final defeat in nine years

"It is far from a given that Ronaldo will manage it, of course. France are looking very good and they have a game-changer in Antoine Griezmann.

"Even if Ronaldo is at his best, it is a difficult ask for them and I think they are going to have to play ugly, like they have done all the way through the tournament, to win.

"I have known him a long time and I would love to see him do it, but it is awkward for me because I have friends in both camps - Nani and Cristiano for Portugal, and Paul Pogba and Patrice Evra for France.

"So I am not really bothered about the result, I just want to see a good game. I would love to see Ronaldo and Griezmann perform to their potential and finish off this tournament on a high note."

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