Cristiano Ronaldo made history on Thursday as the first male player to score at five World Cups in Portugal’s opening match in Qatar 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 went on to win 3-2, with goals from Joao Felix and Rafael Leao helping them overcome two late efforts from Ghana.
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Ronaldo, 37, is the most prolific goalscorer in men’s international football and has made a record 18 appearances for Portugal at the World Cup.
“This is a wonderful 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 key. Another record too, the only player to score in five consecutive World Cups, that’s a reason for me to be very proud.
“I’m very happy for the team that played an excellent game. A tough but fair win.
“It is important that the team won [Manchester United] the chapter is closed, and the focus is only and exclusively on the World Cup. As I said, we wanted to start off on the right foot. We won, we played well, I helped the team. Everything else is not important. Representation is important.”
His latest success comes after he quit Manchester United “by mutual consent” earlier this week following an explosive TV interview in which he criticized the club and coach 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 match against Greece.
His first goal at the 2006 World Cup was from the penalty spot in a 2–0 win over Iran. 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 the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but his side faced disappointment as they were eliminated in the group stage.
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The first player to score in five World Championships, men’s or women’s, was Marta in 2019, and Christine Sinclair achieved the feat the same year.
Ronaldo’s most successful World Cup campaign came 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 past United teammate David de Gea.
Portugal’s best performance with Ronaldo was at the 2006 World Cup, when they finished fourth.
By scoring his eighth World Cup goal in Thursday’s Group H match against Ghana, he is one goal away from equaling the country’s record in the competition, set by Portuguese legend Eusebio. Eusebio helped Portugal to third place at the 1966 World Cup in London, where he finished as top scorer with nine goals.
Ronaldo’s finest moment in international football came when he captained Portugal to glory at Euro 2016 against hosts France in a 1-0 win. It was Portugal’s first major title, followed by UEFA Nations League glory three years later.
Cristiano Ronaldo wrote on Instagram: “A very important win to open the World Cup, but nothing is won! It was only the first step! We remain focused on achieving our goals. Power Portugal!”