DOHA – Cristiano Ronaldo said he was living a “beautiful moment” after becoming the first player to score in five men’s World Cups, as he helped Portugal beat Ghana 3-2 on Thursday in their Group H opener.
He gave reporters a two-minute press conference in which he answered only one question, despite being named Man of the Match.
“It’s a beautiful moment in my fifth World Cup,” Ronaldo said. “We won. We started on a good foot. It’s a very important win. We know in these competitions the first match is fundamental.
“It’s another record too. That makes me very proud.
“I am very happy for the team to have put on an excellent performance. It was difficult but we deserved to win.”
Asked about his acrimonious departure from Manchester United earlier this week, Ronaldo said the only thing that counted was Portugal’s win.
“It was an important step, it was a week which finished this chapter. It is closed, and we want to start on the good foot,” he added.
“I could help my team and all the rest does not matter.”
Portugal coach Fernando Santos hailed his 37-year-old captain, who won a second-half penalty and converted it himself to open the scoring against Ghana.
Andre Ayew equalised, before Joao Felix produced a delicate finish to give Portugal the lead and Rafael Leao added a third.
Osman Bukari pulled back a late goal for Ghana.
“I believe people will continue to speak about his achievements, Cristiano is a phenomenon, a legend like others in football,” said Santos. “In 50 years’ time we will still be talking about him.”
Ronaldo’s teammates also praised him, with Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva delighted to be able to rely on the striker’s contributions.
“He’s special because he’s one of the best of all time, playing in his fifth World Cup, and he’s still able to help us a lot,” said Silva.
“He proved it again today and we are very happy we can still count on him. Not just the goal but he (also) worked a lot for the team.”
Ronaldo was substituted in the 88th minute to a rousing reception around Stadium 974 in Doha at the start of what is likely to be his last World Cup.
His goal was his 118th for Portugal, extending his all-time record for men’s international goals.
Santos also rebuffed suggestions by his Ghanaian counterpart Otto Addo that the penalty decision was incorrect – given for a light shove by defender Mohammed Salisu – and should have been reviewed by the video assistant referee (VAR).
“I think it was a really wrong decision, I don’t know why VAR did not come up, there was no explanation for it,” said Addo.
“If somebody scores a goal, congratulations. But this was a gift, really a gift.”
Santos did not agree, adding: “If the VAR tells the referee that he has to have a look, he will have a look.
“If the VAR didn’t call over the referee, it’s because they watched the images and there was nothing to see.”
Santos, who has been in charge since 2014 and led them to the 2016 European title, said the game had its “highs and lows” for his team and was unhappy about conceding two goals.
“Now we have to look and see what happened with the players and respond to it,” he said.
Portugal, who top Group H, face Uruguay – who drew 0-0 with South Korea on Thursday – in their next match on Monday. REUTERS, AFP