As usual, all the spotlight in Portugal was on Cristiano Ronaldo, although that was now mainly due to his much-discussed split with Manchester United. The superstar was not fazed by it, broke another record and started the World Cup with a win over Ghana: 3-2.

    ‘Siiiiiu!’ echoed through the stadium shortly after Ronaldo had shot his country ahead from eleven yards. The 37-year-old attacker may have made himself impossible with his pungent swipe at Manchester United and coach Erik ten Hag in England, but the admiration among his compatriots is still immense. It earned him a new place in the history books: after his goal, he is the first player ever to be accurate at five World Cups.

    Naturally, all eyes were on Ronaldo, who is clubless for the first time in his life after Manchester United sacked him for his explosive interview. The tournament in Qatar offers the five-time Ballon d’Or winner the ultimate chance for revenge and the opportunity to put himself in the showcase for the apparently difficult search for a new employer that awaits him.

    © ANP/EPA

    An old-fashioned hero role at the World Cup can of course facilitate that. Ronaldo is determined to lead his country, a side filled with countless top players, to its first ever world title this month. The industrious Ronaldo himself, visibly emotional during the national anthem, already set a good example. He had a chance to open the scoring early on in the game, but he came across the Ghanaian goalkeeper.

    After half an hour, Ronaldo thought he would still strike, but that goal was rejected due to a push in the back of his opponent. Ghana got away with that. Yet things went wrong for the Africans. After an hour of play, the star scored a penalty kick, which he himself rammed against the ropes. His historic goal was a fact, but it was also a lot about the way Ronaldo decorated the penalty. The Portuguese superstar went to the grass very easily.

    Cristiano Ronaldo decorates a penalty.

    Cristiano Ronaldo decorates a penalty. © ANP/EPA

    Although Ghana came alongside after an assist from Ajax player Mohammed Kudus to André Ayew, Portugal stepped off the field as the winner. Seven minutes after the equalizer, Portugal brought the margin to two: from the switch, João Félix and Rafael Leão shot the Portuguese to victory. After a striking header from Osman Bukari, a Ghanaian revival followed in the final phase. Things almost went wrong in the closing seconds after keeper Diogo Costa had the ball clumsily snatched from him, but Ghana did not take advantage.

    Mission one has therefore passed for Ronaldo and associates. Mission two must be checked off on December 18. Then Ronaldo hopes to put the ultimate crown on his career by lifting the World Cup and show that he is still one of the global giants.

    Comment Cristiano Ronaldo

    Ronaldo was proud of his world record: ,,It was a great moment, my fifth World Cup and we achieved a victory. We started the World Cup well, it was an important victory. We know that the first game is crucial, but the world record also makes me very proud,” said the 37-year-old attacker, who they thought at Ghana went down very easily: “We play the ball and then let’s connect. I don’t know what they did, if the video referee was asleep. It’s crazy that you don’t even look at this situation. It was the wrong decision,” said Ghana coach Otto Addo.

    ,,I asked if I could talk to the referee after the match. I received the answer that he was in a meeting and that this was not possible. It would be nice if he had a few minutes for the coach.”

    Fernando Santos, the national coach of Portugal, responded laconically to the criticism. “If the video referee thought something was wrong, he would have intervened. He didn’t. So probably there was nothing to see,” said the trainer.

    Mohammed Kudus in action.

    Mohammed Kudus in action. © ANP/EPA


    © ANP/EPA



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