Cristiano Ronaldo may have appeared at the tail-end of Portugal's golden generation of footballers but as the country prepares to begin Euro 2016 against Iceland on Tuesday, he is all too aware of his role in the current squad.

"After Euro 2004, I’ve felt responsible for being part of this great generation," he told Italian magazine Undici in a recent interview. "I know a lot of boys and girls look up to me today as an inspiration."

Portugal hosted Euro 2004 in what was supposed to be the crowning glory of a group of star players such as Rui Costa, Fernando Couto and Luis Figo, who had dominated youth football several years earlier.

A then teenaged Ronaldo joined them but a shock final defeat to Greece meant Portugal remained without a major title and a miserable semi-final defeat to France in the 2006 World Cup confirmed major rebuilding was required.

Since then Ronaldo has, at times, almost single-handedly carried the hopes of his nation on the field even when it seemed obvious to everyone else he was not fit to do so.

The Real Madrid striker played though injury at the 2014 World Cup and memorably said he would have felt better sitting out if Portugal "had another two or three Cristiano Ronaldos."

In his Undici interview, he unashamedly said he considered himself to be the best player of the last 20 years.

But now aged 31, time is running out if Ronaldo is to secure an international title to complement his clutch of club honours and the latest effort kicks off in St Etienne against minnows Iceland in Group F.

Lars Lagerback's side have built steadily in recent years and capped their progress by shocking the Netherlands, Czech Republic and Turkey to top their qualifying group.

“We know that Iceland have a very strong squad and that it will be a difficult game,” Portugal defender Cedric said Saturday. "They work well defensively and it will be tough for us to find a path to goal."

Iceland make their major championship debut and in a squad with precious few stars, they are being met with a new experience.

"You can feel that this is bigger than anything you have participated in before," goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson said, while other players commented on the massive security surrounding their hotel.

"We Icelanders are not used to this," added forward Alfred Finnbogason, who enjoyed a brilliant second half to the season with Bundesliga outfit Augsburg.

Iceland do have experience in their camp, not least through 37-year-old Eidur Gudjohnsen, who won the 2009 Champions League with Barcelona, but also Swedish coach Lars Lagerback who is a veteran of major finals, both with his own country and Nigeria.

"We are here for the first time but he has experienced several tournaments," Finnbogason said of the coach.

Iceland have based themselves in the relatively remote eastern town of Annecy in a bid to keep the pressure off.

"We know this is our first major tournament, so we are trying to get a bit of privacy in a very beautiful hotel here in the mountains," assistant coach Heimir Hallgrimsson said. "The preparation is focused on making us feel good."

On Tuesday, the time for privacy will be over and the pressure, avoided for so long, will be unavoidable. But that is a price Iceland will happily pay for finally being involved at a major finals.

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.