Cristiano Ronaldo made history on Thursday as the first men’s player to score in five World Cups in Portugal’s Qatar opener against Ghana.
The Portugal captain scored in the 65th minute from the penalty spot, his country’s 118th goal, to open the scoring at the 974 Stadium in Doha. Portugal won 3-2 thanks to goals from Joao Félix and Rafael Leao. two late efforts from Ghana.
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Ronaldo, 37, is the most prolific goalscorer in international men’s soccer and has made a record 18 appearances for Portugal in a World Cup.
“It’s a beautiful moment, in my fifth World Cup. We won, we started on the right foot, a very important victory,” Ronaldo said of the milestone. “We know that in these competitions winning the first game is essential. Another record as well, the only player to have scored in five consecutive World Cups, which for me is a source of great pride.
“I am very happy that the team has put in an excellent performance. Difficult win, but fair.
“The important thing was that the team won. [Manchester United] The chapter is closed, and the focus is solely and exclusively on the World Cup. As I was saying, we wanted to start off on the right foot. We won, we played well, I helped the team. Everything else is not important. The important thing is the selection.”
His latest milestone comes after he left Manchester United by “mutual agreement” earlier this week following an explosive television interview in which he criticized the club and manager Erik ten Hag.
The striker made his Portugal debut in 2003 and scored his first goal 10 months later during a Euro 2004 group stage match against Greece.
His first World Cup goal, in 2006, came from the penalty spot in a 2-0 win over Iran. His next World Cup goal came 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 the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but his team faced disappointment when they were knocked out in the group stage.
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The first player to score in five World Cups, male or female, was Marta in 2019, and Christine Sinclair matched the feat that same year.
Ronaldo’s most successful World Cup campaign was in 2018 in Russia, where he scored four goals, including a hat-trick in a 3-3 draw with Spain. The last of those goals came in the 88th minute, a 25-yard free kick that flew into the top left corner and past United teammate David de Gea.
Portugal’s best performance under Ronaldo was the 2006 World Cup, when he finished fourth.
Scoring in Thursday’s Group H match against Ghana, his eighth World Cup goal, he is one stroke away from equaling the country’s record for the competition, set by Portugal legend Eusebio. Eusebio helped Portugal reach third place at the 1966 World Cup in London, where he finished as the top scorer with nine goals.
Ronaldo’s finest moment in international football came when he captained Portugal to Euro 2016 glory against hosts France in a 1-0 win. It was Portugal’s first major title, and was followed by UEFA Nations League glory three years later.
Cristiano Ronaldo wrote on Instagram: “Very important victory in our first World Cup match, but nothing is won! It was only the first step! We remain focused on the pursuit of our goals. Strength Portugal!”