Football News

Cristiano Ronaldo makes World Cup history as Portugal seal nervy 3-2 win over Ghana

By Harry Edwards

Published: 18:16, 24 November 2022

Cristiano Ronaldo made World Cup history as he helped Portugal open their 2022 campaign with a 3-2 win over Ghana on Thursday.

The build up to the game was dominated by Ronaldo, but less about what he would bring for Portugal on the pitch and more on his club future. Ronaldo, now 37, is officially a free agent having seen his contract with Manchester United terminated in midweek following an interview in which he heavily criticised the club.

In the following days, almost everyone gave their opinion on Ronaldo’s situation and a host of names were thrown into the hat for his next club, from serious options such as MLS and Saudi Arabia to non-league sides offering very cheap deals. But Portugal had a World Cup game to focus on, and there will have been some worries about where Ronaldo’s head was.

During the national anthem Ronaldo looked tearful and perhaps the emotions had got the better of him in the first half, as the forward missed a couple of decent chances including a header that you’d have backed him to score. Ronaldo also had a goal ruled out for a foul, though the strike came after the whistle blew — had it been allowed to go to VAR, the foul was soft enough that it may not have been overturned.

Ronaldo wasn’t alone in his underwhelming first-half performance as Portugal struggled as a whole and Ghana were more than happy to frustrate their opponents, failing to have a single touch in the Portugal box. Things weren’t much better at the start of the second half, and at times Ronaldo looked as though he was too intent on scoring, which counted against him.

But then the moment came as Ronaldo was adjudged to have been brought down inside the box in what was a controversial penalty decision that didn’t get too long of a look on the VAR review. Of course there was only going to be one man to take the spot-kick and Ronaldo dispatched the penalty expertly, leaving goalkeeper Lawrence Ati-Zigi very little chance of stopping it.

The goal, Ronaldo’s 119th in international football, meant the Portuguese forward has now scored in five different World Cups – the first ever man to achieve that feat. In the women’s game, he joins Brazilian legend Marta and Christine Sinclair of Canada, who has also scored more senior international goals that any other player.

Ronaldo’s run started at the 2006 World Cup with one goal in Portugal’s 2-0 win over Iran, and he added another goal in the 2010 World Cup against North Korea. The 2014 World Cup brought just one goal again, this time against Ghana, before the outlier of the 2018 World Cup in which Ronaldo scored four times including a hat-trick vs Spain.

It also moved him one World Cup clear of eternal rival Lionel Messi who, in scoring for Argentina in their 2-1 defeat against Saudi Arabia, had momentarily levelled Ronaldo at four tournaments – alongside Pele, Uwe Seeler and Miroslav Klose.

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Not only that, Ronaldo also became the first man to score in 10 consecutive international major tournaments (World Cup and continental competitions), taking the record from Ghanaian Asamoah Gyan in an extra blow. While some may have expected the penalty to be the decider in what was an unexciting match up until that point, it actually opened the game.

Within 10 minutes, Ghana were level as Andre Ayew tapped in from close range after good work down the left, targeting Joao Cancelo who had a poor game by his high standards. Ghana were level for just five minutes though, with Bruno Fernandes picking up the first of two assists — he was arguably Portugal’s star man — in setting up Joao Felix who calming beat the goalkeeper. Rafael Leao then made it 3-1 just a few minutes after coming on, again from an excellent Fernandes pass.

Portugal manager Fernando Santos thought the game was won there, bringing Ronaldo, Felix and Bernardo Silva off but Osman Bukari set things up for a nervy finish with a close-range header as Ghana exploited Cancelo once more. In the end Portugal did hold on, and put themselves in a good position to qualify from Group H.

“I believe this will calm everyone down a little bit,” former Portugal defender told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“Portugal will go into the next game with a bit more confidence and they will analyse the good and the bad. We need to be more solid defensively and getting everybody back into shape because there was too much space in the second half. Portugal made a few unforced errors.

“If they can improve on that they will always create chances and have goals in the team. If they do that, they will have a great chance in the competition.”