974 Stadium, Doha, Qatar
watch Cristiano Ronaldo In the first half of Portugal’s first-half World Cup against Ghana on Thursday, frustration was palpable in the stands.
The striker still looked the part, waving to the crowd and receiving the loudest cheers when the starting line-ups were announced before kick-off.
He was applauded by the fans in the stadium and T-shirts with his name on the back could be seen all over Doha, Qatar ahead of the match.
His iconic “SIUU” broke the language barrier, with people from all over the world talking to each other in imitation of the iconic holiday.
But while the 37-year-old’s popularity and appeal remain relatively unchanged, his on-pitch performances of late have not been in the spirit of Ronaldo.
The same story continued until the 65th minute of the match at the 974 stadium, after which Ronaldo began to create another story.
If his body can lose its strength, his football brain remains as sharp as ever.
As his team searched for a breakthrough, Ronaldo used his body to get ahead of Mohammed Salisa and fell to the floor when he felt contact from behind.
No one doubted who would take the penalty: Ronaldo picked up the ball and shot it into the top corner of the goal before running to his adoring fans in celebration.
This goal had added significance as Ronaldo became the first male player in history to score five goals. World Cups – the feat of the Brazilian striker Marta became the first player she achieved back in 2019.
This is another record in Ronaldo’s brilliant career and a reminder to everyone that he can still make a difference when it really matters.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has scored in four previous tournaments and now has eight World Cup goals to his credit.
Even though Ronaldo was man of the match and made history on Thursday, he was in no mood to speak.
After the coaches of Portugal and Ghana spoke to reporters at the post-match press conference, it was Ronaldo’s turn to answer questions.
He was smiling as he walked into the press conference, but before many of the journalists in the room could even begin to record what he was saying, Ronaldo blacked out again.
He gave a very brief answer in Portuguese when asked about an eventful week – his departure from Manchester United was announced on Tuesday – and a record achievement in Qatar 2022.
One journalist estimated that Ronaldo was only in the room for two minutes before leaving.
Up until his goal, Ronaldo was off the pace and far from being at the level we expected him to be.
He missed opportunities that a younger version of himself would have buried. He waved his hands in frustration, perhaps more to himself than to his teammates who continue to look to the striker for inspiration and leadership.
But just as the people in the stadium were writing him off, Ronaldo stepped in to ensure Ghana should pursue the game.
Ghana equalized shortly after Ronaldo took André Aya from the penalty spot, but Portugal responded with two straight shots.
João Felix regained the lead and Rafael Leão added a third before a header from Osman Bucari gave Ghana a small chance of a comeback at the end.
Ronaldo was substituted in the final moments as his team looked to defend their lead, but he stayed in the game chasing the touchline, demanding more from his teammates, as he did during that iconic match. European Championship final 2016.
This once again showed that his mentality remains as competitive as ever.
Winning is all that matters to a person who has won almost everything in the game.
Like his rival Lionel Messi, the World Cup is the only trophy not yet in his cabinet, but he appears determined to change that in Qatar 2022.
The goal, record and victory were welcome news for Ronaldo in a week when Manchester United announced that the two sides had mutually agreed to terminate the striker’s contract immediately after he gave an explosive TV interview.
It’s unclear where the superstar will go next, but the suitors were once again reminded of his abilities.
Ronaldo knows how to score and will demand more of himself and his teammates.
His performance on Thursday showed once again that one of the world’s greatest players cannot be written off.