DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo closed his eyes, took a deep breath and then made World Cup history.
The Portuguese forward became the first men’s player to score in five World Cups with his 65th-minute penalty in a 3-2 win over Ghana on Thursday.
Days after his contract was terminated at Manchester United following a revealing interview, he let his football do the talking at the start of what is likely to be his last World Cup.
“This was a beautiful moment,” Ronaldo said. “The world record, the only player to score in five World Cups, makes me very proud.”
After the ball hit the back of the net to give Portugal a 1-0 lead, a grinning Ronaldo performed his customary midair flip and spin – the crowd roaring his trademark “SI-UUU” as he did the pirouette. , before. being bullied by teammates.
He has now scored in every World Cup since the first in 2006, when a penalty against Iran started his run of goals in the tournament that now total eight in 18 games. He has a men’s record of 118 international goals.
“I think Cristiano is a phenomenon, a legend,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said. “50 years from now, we’ll still be talking about him.”
His latest goalscoring record adds to the luster of a resume that should ensure Ronaldo receives plenty of offers from new clubs after parting ways with United on Tuesday. That came after he gave an unauthorized interview to Piers Morgan criticizing the manager, the owners and his teammates at the English club.
His tense preparation for the tournament did not seem to affect Ronaldo against Ghana, even though he missed two clear chances in the first half.
“It was a week that this chapter (with United) ended,” Ronaldo said. “It is closed and now I want to start with the right foot forward. We started, we won, I want to help my team and everything else doesn’t matter.”
Ronaldo ended the game with his head in his hands in pure relief after Ghana nearly pulled to an equalizer in the ninth minute of stoppage time thanks to a shred of wit.
In the last action of the match, Ghanaian forward Iñaki Williams hid behind Diogo Costa while the Portuguese goalkeeper rolled the ball on the ground and prepared to clear it. Williams stripped Costa and, despite slipping, managed to get the ball towards the goal.
Portuguese defender Danilo ran back and cleared the ball near the line as Ronaldo, who was sitting on the bench after being substituted, looked on in disbelief.
All the goals came in a wild final half hour, with Andre Ayew equalizing for Ghana eight minutes after Ronaldo converted his penalty after falling to a challenge from Mohammed Salisu.
Ghana coach Otto Addo called the penalty “a special gift from the referee”.
Joao Félix regained the lead for Portugal in the 78th minute after a through ball from Bruno Fernandes, who then set up Rafael Leao to add a third. Osman Bukari cut Ghana’s deficit to 89, comically celebrating Ronaldo’s “YES-UUU” spin.
None of the five African teams in the World Cup won their first match in the group stage. Ghana lost, as did Senegal and Cameroon, while Tunisia and Morocco drew their games. “They didn’t win, but I saw that they can compete with the opponent,” Addo said. “I hope we can improve.”
Inaki Williams made his first competitive start for Ghana, a day after his brother, Nico, came on as a substitute for Spain in a 7-0 win over Costa Rica. Iñaki Williams switched his allegiance this year from Spain to Ghana, which is the country where his parents were born and left decades ago while his mother was pregnant with him.