Cristiano Ronaldo made history on Thursday as the first male player to score in Portugal’s opening game in Qatar against Ghana in five World Cups.
The Portugal captain scored a 65th-minute penalty – his country’s 118th goal – to open the scoring at Doha’s Stadium 974. Portugal prevailed 3-2 through goals from Joao Felix and Rafael Leao through two late attempts from Ghana.
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Ronaldo, 37, is the leading scorer in international men’s football and has made a record 18 appearances for Portugal at a World Cup.
“It’s a beautiful moment in my fifth World Cup. We won, we started on the right foot, a very important win,” Ronaldo said of the milestone. “We know that in these competitions, winning the first game is crucial. Another record, the only player to score in five consecutive World Cups, is a source of great pride for me.”
“I am very happy for the team that they put in an excellent performance. Difficult but fair victory.
“The most important thing was that the team won [Manchester United] Chapter is complete and the focus is solely on the World Cup. As I said, we wanted to start with the right foot. We won, we played well, I helped the team. Everything else is not important. The most important thing is the national team.”
His latest milestone comes after he left Manchester United by mutual consent earlier this week after conducting an explosive TV interview criticizing the club and manager Erik ten Hag.
The forward made his debut for Portugal in 2003 and scored his first goal 10 months later during a Euro 2004 group stage game against Greece.
He scored his first World Cup goal from the penalty spot in a 2-0 win over Iran in 2006. He scored his next World Cup goal four years later in South Africa in a 7-0 win over North Korea. Ronaldo also scored in Portugal’s 2-1 win over Ghana at Brazil 2014, but his side were disappointed when they were eliminated in the group stage.
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The first player to score at five World Cups, whether men’s or women’s, was Marta in 2019, and Christine Sinclair achieved the feat in the same year.
Ronaldo’s most successful World Cup campaign was in Russia 2018, where he scored four goals including a hat-trick in the 3-3 draw with Spain. The last of those goals came in the 88th minute, a 25-yard free-kick that flew past United team-mate David de Gea into the top left corner.
Portugal’s best performance with Ronaldo was at the 2006 World Cup when they finished fourth.
His eighth goal in a World Cup in Thursday’s Group H match against Ghana put him just one goal away from equaling the country’s record in the competition, set by Portuguese legend Eusebio. Eusebio helped Portugal finish third at the 1966 World Cup in London, where he was top scorer with nine goals.
Ronaldo’s greatest hour in international football came when he led Portugal to Euro 2016 glory with a 1-0 win over hosts France. It was Portugal’s first major title, followed by a UEFA Nations League triumph three years later.
Cristiano Ronaldo wrote on Instagram: “Very important win in our World Cup opener but won nothing! It was only the first step! We remain focused on pursuing our goals. Strengthen Portugal!”