DOHA, Qatar. Cristiano Ronaldo’s fifth World Cup, for good and debatable reasons, kicked off for a crazy half hour here at the 974 Stadium on Thursday night.
After 60 minutes of goalless football, Portugal defeated Ghana 3-2. However, the game that caused the frenzy was described by Ghanaian coach Otto Addo as “a special gift from the referee”.
It was a penalty that Ronaldo won and converted – but should it have been a penalty? “Why?” Addo asked. “Because it’s Ronaldo or something like that?” The Portuguese star reached for the ball along with Ghanaian defender Mohammed Salisu and both appeared to touch the ball.
“We played ball,” Addo said. But the American referee Ismael Elfat pointed to a penalty. His video assistant did not intervene. Ronaldo converted a penalty in the 65th minute to become the first man to score in five World Cups and the eruption began.
André Ayew equalized eight minutes later. João Felix and Rafael Leão, two young strikers who would someday replace Ronaldo, delighted the pro-Portuguese crowd with two goals in less than three minutes, seemingly ending the game.
But again, Ghana responded in the 89th minute. Osman Boukari rebounded the goal, rolled back to the corner flag and got into Ronaldo’s trademark “SIIIUUU” celebration.
“A little crazy,” teammate Antoine Semegno said of Boukari’s post-game celebration.
However, the rest of his teammates intercepted the ball and ran back to the center circle. They had one minute out of 90 plus nine minutes of stoppage time to get third.
And in one of the last minutes, at the end of a crazy half, they almost achieved their goal. After the attack failed in the hands of Portugal goalkeeper Diogo Costa, Inaki Williams sneaked up behind him. Costa dropped the ball to play long. Williams lashed out and briefly put Portuguese hearts in his mouth.
But he slipped at the crucial moment. The Portuguese defenders recovered. And the favorites held on by three points.
After that, the Portuguese chatter focused on Ronaldo, who, after two chaotic weeks, finally let his football speak for itself. For most of his 87 minutes, he looked slow and anything but sharp. However, this goal made him a somewhat baffling Man of the Match choice.
Which, in turn, made him FIFA’s choice for the post-match press conference. “That chapter is closed after this week,” he said when asked about the controversy surrounding his explosive interview and subsequent split with Manchester United. “Done”.
The Ghanaian chatter, however, was partly focused on penalties. The players were reserved. “This is a tricky thing,” said Semenyo. – But I do not know.
“I think you saw it,” defender Tariq Lamptey said in response to a reporter’s question. “You can have your say.”
Addo, the coach, shared his opinion. He said he asked to speak to Elfat, the referee, “calmly and quietly.” He said he was told by FIFA officials that Elfat was in a meeting and unavailable.
“I don’t know what they’re doing, if they weren’t paying attention,” he said of the refereeing team. “Maybe VAR wasn’t paying attention. It was just incredible.”
“Up until the penalty, everything was possible,” he added. “Then the game got a little wild.”