Cristiano Ronaldo became the first man to score in five World Cups
His record-breaking goal came in the 65th minute of the 3-2 win over Ghana
Ronaldo is now one goal short of equalling Eusebio’s World Cup record total for Portugal
They sat there, phones at the ready, as Cristiano Ronaldo stood over the penalty spot. All were looking down at Portugal’s No7, all waiting to record a piece of FIFA World Cup history.
Those fans, at the end of Stadium 974 that Portugal were attacking in the second period, had begun loudly chanting Ronaldo’s name just five minutes earlier, as if willing his moment to happen. And so it did.
His first World Cup goal, against Iran on 17 June 2006, had been from the penalty spot and so was this one.
Ronaldo won the penalty, inviting a challenge from Mohammed Salisu. He converted it too, applying enough height, power and precision to propel the ball into the right-hand corner even though Lawrence Ati dived the right way.
Cue a big “Siuuu!” from the fans behind the goal as he produced his trademark celebration. With it, the 37-year-old had become the first player to score in five separate editions of the World Cup.
Lionel Messi, Miroslav Klose, Uwe Seeler and a certain Pele all scored in four tournaments. Ronaldo will savour the view from above them. At the age of 37 years and 292 days he is also now the second-oldest scorer in World Cup history, behind only Cameroon’s Roger Milla. “It was a beautiful moment, my fifth World Cup,” he said in his brief Player of the Match press conference. “We won, we started off on the right foot. I’m very proud and happy to become the fifth player to score in five tournaments.”
It has been quite a week for a player whose exit from Manchester United was confirmed on Tuesday night. But this is a man with super-human levels of belief and resilience on top of his footballing and physical gifts. “My only focus was the World Cup, all the rest is not important,” he added.
He was first out of the tunnel for the warm-up. His first kick of a ball – a shot into an empty net – drew the first cheer from the Portugal end. He does not roam far on a football pitch these days. Yet that instinct in and around the box is firmly intact, and so it proved.
Ronaldo provided the only sparks of a lacklustre first half, going close with two early chances before finding the net, only for the strike to be annulled for a shove on Alexander Djiku.
Ghana, going against type, had played a third centre-back, yet Ronaldo was still finding space. And on 65 minutes, he got the goal, his eighth in 18 World Cup finals appearances, and one which adds another layer to the Ronaldo legend. It lit the fuse on a thrilling final 25 minutes, although the story, finally and inevitably, was all about one man.
“He is one of the best players in the world, one of the finest goalscorers of all time,” said Portugal coach Fernando Santos afterwards. “In 50 years time, we will continue to talk about him,” he added. “We talk about Pele and Maradona, who played 50 years ago, and so I think we will continue to speak about Ronaldo.”
For the record, the man from Madeira is now just one goal behind Eusebio’s total of nine on the world stage for Portugal. Another target to aim for. Don’t rule it out.