|Host country: Qatar Dates: November 20-December 18 Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app. Daily TV programs – Full coverage details|
Fans going to the Portugal-Ghana match expected a starring role from Cristiano Ronaldo.
And he performed properly at Stadium 974, where Portuguese supporters left smiling and Ghanaian fans left with an idea of what could have been.
Spectators witnessed history as 37-year-old Ronaldo became the first man to score in five different FIFA World Cups, as a 3-2 victory over Ghana gave the 2016 European champions the perfect start to this tournament.
The goal and result will be a welcome distraction from the off-field troubles that have clouded Ronaldo’s run into the tournament.
In an interview with TalkTV last week, he was devastating to Manchester United and manager Erik ten Hag then left the club by ‘mutual agreement’.
“It was a week that closes the chapter, it’s closed. We won and I was able to help the team – the rest doesn’t matter,” Ronaldo said after the game.
“This was a great moment, my fifth World Cup,
“We won, we started on a good foot and it’s a very important win. The first game is crucial in these tournaments.” The first player to score goals in five World Cups, I’m very proud of that.
‘One of the best players ever’
There was only one man who came to see many of the 42,600 spectators in Doha.
As they got off the subway at Ras Bu Aboud station outside the ground, a mother, son and daughter all wore ‘Ronaldo 7’ shirts, with the boy saying he is “my favourite”.
Just outside the turnstiles, supporters gathered and took photos with some running and recreating his famous ‘Siu’ celebration.
Ronaldo received a deafening cheer as he led his team outside to warm up for the match and his name received the loudest ovation as Portugal’s team form was read out.
As the side lined up for the national anthem, the camera panned to Ronaldo – the first man in line – and he looked quite emotional as he sang ‘A Portuguesa’ with tears in his eyes.
The leader, who had previously missed two great chances and had a goal disallowed, saw his big moment come in the second half.
With Southampton defender Mohammed Salisu close by, Ronaldo hit the deck and the US referee pointed to the spot, which he stepped up to convert with confidence.
Ronaldo darted to the corner flag to celebrate his famous celebration, jumping and spinning as ‘Siuuuu’ echoed through the stadium.
“One of the best players in the world, one of the best players ever,” said Portugal coach Fernando Santo.
“Cristiano Ronaldo is a phenomenon, a legend like many who have come and gone before. In 50 years we will continue to talk about him.”
Ronaldo received a standing ovation as he was replaced by Goncalo Ramos with three minutes remaining and watched in dismay as Ghana’s Osman Bukari scored for Ghana and celebrated.
More records for Ronaldo
Ronaldo became the second oldest player to score in the World Cup (37 years, 292 days), behind only Roger Milla in 1994 for Cameroon (42 years, 39 days).
But that record may elude him as he will only be 41 by the time the next tournament takes place in 2026.
Ronaldo is the third player to be both a nation’s oldest and youngest goalscorer at the World Cup, joining Croatia’s Ivica Olic and Denmark’s Michael Laudrup.
Including World Cups and Euros, Ronaldo has now scored in 10 consecutive major tournaments.
“Ronaldo would have come to this World Cup with the record [of scoring in five tournaments] in mind,” former Portuguese team-mate Jose Fonte told BBC Radio 5 Live.
Records are chasing him and I am sure he will be extremely proud to score in five World Cups.
“It’s a great honor for his attention to detail, his professionalism and how he takes care of himself. It’s a great achievement for him and also for Portugal.”
Portuguese midfielder Ruben Neves added: “It’s Cristiano, everyone knows him. He’s the best player in the world.
“He’s very motivated, he’s really focused on the national team and we’re really lucky to have him with us because he can still help us a lot.”
Ronaldo penalty kick decision ‘a nosedive’
Ronaldo would not have had the chance to score his historic goal if the referee had decided that Salisu had played the ball or if the video assistant referee had intervened.
Neither saved Ghana, leaving boss Otto Addo furious afterwards.
He told BeIN Sports: “The referee gave a penalty that wasn’t a penalty – everyone saw that. Why? Because it’s Ronaldo or something?”
When asked by a journalist in the post-match press conference whether the penalty was given because Ronaldo is a superstar, Addo replied: “Ask the referee.
“I have no evidence whether he would have decided for anyone else. There was contact from players. I don’t know what they were doing, wasn’t the VAR paying attention?”
“The referee was not in our favor today.”
Former England defender Matt Upson called it “a nosedive” on BBC Radio 5 Live, adding: “There’s a little bit of contact, but there’s not enough to knock him down, right?”
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