Cristiano Ronaldo has often been described as a machine for Portugal – but World Cup 2022 has already shown that he’s human.
CR7 led the Portuguese out for their opener against Ghana as captain as the only unattached player at the tournament, following his mutually terminated contract with Manchester United this week.
The 37-year-old put his future at Old Trafford in doubt with an explosive interview with Piers Morgan in which he claimed that his employers had betrayed him – and sure enough, he ended his second spell with the Red Devils ahead of his fifth World Cup, putting him in the shop window for the tournament.
And Ronaldo was visibly emotional at hearing the Portuguese national anthem, A Portuguesa, at Stadium 974 in Qatar, a ground made from shipping containers that was said to “wobbling” with the raucous atmosphere of the competition’s first fixture, Mexico vs. Poland.
Ronaldo appearing against Ghana puts him in a select group of players to have played at five World Cups – days after Lionel Messi also added his name to the list. Both stars made their first performances at the tournament in 2006, where Ronaldo infamously winked at Wayne Rooney in the Portugese defeat of England in the quarter-finals of the competition.
As Ronaldo touched the ball for the first time after around a minute in game against Ghana, the venue peaked with a roar of excitement. Unfortunately for the talisman himself, his first action was to give away a foul.
Well, he’s not had too much football lately, to be fair to him.