Cristiano Ronaldo closed his eyes, took a deep breath and then made history. The Portuguese striker became the first male player to score at five World Cups with his 65th-minute penalty in a 3-2 win over Ghana on Thursday.
Just days after his contract was terminated at Manchester United following a tell-all interview, he let his scoring do the talking at the start of possibly his final World Cup.
“This was a beautiful moment,” Ronaldo said. “The world record, the only player to score in five World Cups, [it] makes me very proud.”
He has now scored in every World Cup since his first in 2006 when a penalty against Iran started his run of goals in the tournament. He has also scored a world record 118 goals in international games for Portugal.
“I think Cristiano is a phenomenon, a legend,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said. “In 50 years, we will continue to talk about him.”
Ronaldo ended the match with his head in his hands in pure relief after Ghana almost snatched a draw in the ninth minute of stoppage time thanks to a piece of ingenuity.
In the last action of the game, Ghana striker Inaki Williams hid behind Diogo Costa as the Portuguese goalkeeper rolled the ball on the ground and prepared to clear it. Williams dispossessed Costa and, despite slipping, managed to poke the ball toward the goal.
Portugal defender Danilo raced back and cleared the ball away as Ronaldo, who was sitting in the dugout after being substituted, watched in disbelief.
Meanwhile, a spectacular acrobatic kick followed an easy tap-in from close range as Richarlison scored both goals in Brazil’s 2-0 victory over Serbia
He had his back to the goal when he used one touch to get the ball up in the air near the penalty spot, then spun around and leapt off the ground before knocking the ball into the net with his right foot in the 73rd minute.
“My childhood dream has come true,” said Richarlison, who is playing in his first World Cup. “We knew it was going to be difficult to get past them. I’m used to playing against defensive teams like this in England. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunities that I had and I did.”
In the other Group G match, Switzerland defeated Cameroon 1-0, putting them second behind Brazil. In Group H, the match between Uruguay and South Korea ended in a 0-0 draw.