Cristiano Ronaldo closed his eyes, took a deep breath and then made World Cup history.
The Portuguese striker became the first man to score in five World Cups with a penalty in the 65th minute of Thursday’s 3-2 win over Ghana.
A few days after his contract was terminatedAfter a thorough interview, he probably let football do the talking at the start of the last World Cup.
“It was a great moment,” Ronaldo said. “I am very proud of the world record of being the only player to score in five World Cups.”
After hitting the back of the net to give Portugal a 1-0 lead, a smiling Ronaldo performed his usual leap and spin in the air – before the crowd roared his trademark “SI-UUU” – before. bullied by teammates.
He has scored in every World Cup since 2006, when a penalty against Iran started his scoring streak at the tournament, which took him to eight in 18 games. He holds the record for men’s international goals with 118.
“I think Cristiano is a phenomenon, a legend,” said Portugal national team coach Fernando Santos. “After 50 years, we will continue to talk about him.”
His recent goalscoring record adds to the luster of Ronaldo’s CV, which has seen him field a flurry of offers from new clubs since leaving United on Tuesday. It came after he gave an unauthorized interview to Piers Morgan, who criticized his manager, owners and team-mates at the English club.
Despite missing two clear-cut chances in the first half, his rapid rise to the tournament did not affect Ronaldo against Ghana.
“It’s been a week to finish this chapter (with United),” Ronaldo said. “It’s closed and now I want to start with a good foot forward. We started, we won, I want to help my team and everything else is not important.”
After Ghana nearly equalized in the ninth minute of stoppage time thanks to inventiveness, Ronaldo finished the game comfortably with his head in his hands.
In the last move of the game, Ghana forward Inaki Williams was hidden behind Diogo Costa as the Portuguese keeper rolled the ball to the ground and prepared to clear it. Williams intercepted Costa and, despite slipping, managed to tap the ball into the goal.
Portuguese defender Danilo raced back to clear the ball from near the line and watched in disbelief as Ronaldo sat in the dungeon after being substituted.
All the goals came in a wild final half-hour, with Andre Ayew equalizing for Ghana eight minutes after Ronaldo converted a penalty after falling under Mohamed Salisu’s cross.
The head coach of the Ghana national team, Otto Addo, called the penalty “a special gift from the judge”.
Joao Felix restored Portugal’s lead in the 78th minute after a through ball from Bruno Fernandes, who set up Rafael Leão to add the third. Osman Bukari reduced Ghana’s deficit in the 89th with Ronaldo’s ‘SI-UUU’ loop.
None of the five African teams participating in the World Cup won their first game in the group stage. Ghana also lost, as did Senegal and Cameroon, while Tunisia and Morocco drew. “They didn’t win, but I saw they could compete with the opposition,” Addo said. “Hopefully we can get better.”
THE WILLIAMS BROTHERS:
Inaki Williams made his first competitive start for Ghana, a day after his brother Nico replaced Spain in the 7-0 win over Costa Rica. Inaki Williams changed his allegiance from Spain to Ghana this year.
Portugal face Uruguay on Monday. On the same day, Ghana will face South Korea.