Cristiano Ronaldo closed his eyes, took a deep breath and made history. The Portuguese striker became the first male player to score in five World Cups from a 65th-minute penalty in Thursday’s 3-2 win over Ghana.
Just days after his Manchester United contract was terminated after a candid interview, he let his goal speak at the start of what could be his last World Cup.
“It was a great moment,” said Ronaldo. “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 goal in 2006, when a penalty against Iran set off his streak in the tournament. He also scored a world record with 118 goals in international games for Portugal.
“I think Cristiano is a phenomenon, a legend,” said Portugal coach Fernando Santos. “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 nearly pulled out a draw in the ninth minute of stoppage time thanks to 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 kick it out. Williams lost possession of Costa and, despite misses, managed to push the ball towards the goal.
Portugal defender Danilo rushed back and cleared the ball, while Ronaldo, who was sitting in the dugout after the substitution, watched in disbelief.
In the meantime, a spectacular acrobatic kick was followed by a close-range effort as Richarlison scored both goals in Brazil’s 2-0 victory over Serbia.
He had his back to goal as he lifted the ball into the air near the penalty with one touch, then spun and jumped off the ground before kicking the ball into the net with his right foot in the 73rd minute.
“My childhood dream came true,” said Richarlison, who plays in his first World Cup. “We knew it would be difficult to beat them. I’m used to playing against such defensive teams in England. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunities I had and I did.”
In the other Group G match, Switzerland beat Cameroon 1-0, finishing second behind Brazil. In group H, the match between Uruguay and South Korea ended in a 0-0 draw.