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Cristiano Ronaldo (l) gave Portugal a 1-0 lead with a penalty. © Tom Weller/dpa

Portugal struggles against Ghana, then Cristiano Ronaldo makes history. The superstar celebrates a successful start on the hunt for the world title.

Doha – Cristiano Ronaldo experienced the ultimate relief from his blue bench seat. Only with the final whistle and thus the end of the nail-biter was the historic evening for Portugal’s superstar saved.

In the 3-2 (0-0) win over Ghana, Ronaldo, who was substituted shortly before the end, not only made history as the first footballer to score at five World Cups, but also made the hoped-for top start to the tournament in Qatar with his Portuguese team.

Two days after parting ways with his previous club, Manchester United, captain Ronaldo gave his team the lead with a penalty kick (65th minute). Captain Andre Ayew’s equalizer (73′) was countered by João Félix (78′) and Rafael Leão (80′) with goals before Osman Bukari (89′) scored again for Ghana shortly before the end.

“I don’t know what to say. Of course it was good, it improved in the second half. It went quite well,” said Portugal coach Fernando Santos: “We played well, we scored the goals we were supposed to. We won, that’s the most important thing.” Goalscorer Félix added: “I showed the world what we can do in Portugal. We’re going into the next game more calmly now.”

Moment of shock for Portugal shortly before the end

Shortly before the end, Ronaldo grabbed his head again in horror. Portugal keeper Diogo Costa rolled the ball in the ninth minute of added time, missing striker Inaki Williams starting behind him. However, the Ghanaian couldn’t control the ball and missed the huge chance to make it 3:3.

The Ghanaians, with former Bundesliga player Otto Addo as national coach, need to improve in Group H with Uruguay and South Korea to reach the knockout rounds. However, they scored the first goals of an African team in this tournament. Portugal, on the other hand, go into the next duel with Uruguay on Monday as group leaders and with the best prospects of reaching the round of 16.

Controversial decision before Ronaldo’s penalty

The origin of the opening goal was controversial: after a slight contact between Ronaldo and Ghana’s defender Mohammed Salisu, referee Ismail Elfath from the USA awarded a penalty. The video assistant did not intervene, Ronaldo converted safely and was celebrated.

In his fifth World Cup participation and his tenth major tournament in a row, Ronaldo wants to conquer the last international title that is still missing. With Portugal, the multiple Champions League winners became European champions in 2016, and fourth place in Germany in 2006 was the best result in his four World Cup tournaments to date. Eusebio’s Portugal World Cup goal record (nine goals) is also within Ronaldo’s reach with eight goals now.

running duel
Portugal’s Bernardo Silva (r) in a running duel with Seidu Alidu from Ghana. © Tom Weller/dpa

The captain led Portugal’s side with a determined expression already in the warm-up. During the national anthem, the 37-year-old got emotional at what was probably his last World Cup tournament and fought back tears. The Portuguese fans among the 42,662 spectators in the 974 stadium in Doha initially cheered each ball touch of the 37-year-old individually. And indeed it was Ronaldo who could have given his team the lead in the first half. But the Portuguese record goalscorer initially showed unusual weaknesses in the end.

Ghana brave only in the second half

After ten minutes he missed a ball when receiving it, three minutes later he failed to hit a free header in front of the goal. An alleged goal by Ronaldo after half an hour was called back before the end because of a foul play (31st). Ronaldo, who has been without a club since Tuesday, was initially unable to advertise on his own behalf. Paris Saint-Germain, Newcastle United, Chelsea FC or clubs in the USA or Saudi Arabia are considered possible prospects for Ronaldo.

Portugal - Ghana
Cristiano Ronaldo (M) puts a header wide of the goal. © Tom Weller/dpa

Ghana had started their first World Cup since 2014 with high hopes under Dortmund talent coach Addo. After a nervous start against Portugal, the Africans only became a little braver in the second half. However, the interim equalization by Captain Ayew was not enough. In the first half, Ghana didn’t even come into contact with the ball in the opponent’s penalty area.

The highlights then came concentrated in the final phase. After Ronaldo’s penalty, Ghana’s equalizer initially caused a storm of jubilation from the numerous and vociferous African fans. But Portugal didn’t let up. Bruno Fernandes, who had been inconspicuous for a long time, served twice perfectly, while Félix and Leão, who had just come on as a substitute, quickly made it 2-1 and 3-1. The game was decided, Bukari’s goal, including a copy of the typical Ronaldo celebration, came too late. dpa

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