Fans heading to the Portugal-Ghana game would have been expecting a starring performance from Cristiano Ronaldo.
And he duly delivered at Stadium 974, which saw Portugal supporters leave smiling and Ghana fans left with a sense of what might have been.
Spectators witnessed history as the 37-year-old Ronaldo became the first man to score at five different Fifa World Cups as a 3-2 victory over Ghana gave the 2016 European champions the perfect start to this tournament.
The goal and result will be a welcome distraction from the off-field issues that has clouded Ronaldo’s build-up to the tournament. He was scathing of Manchester United and manager Erik ten Hag in an interview with TalkTV last week and subsequently left the club by ‘mutual agreement’.
“It was a week that finishes the chapter, it’s closed. We won and I could help the team – the rest does not matter,” Ronaldo said after the game. “This was a beautiful moment, my fifth World Cup, “We won, we started on our good foot and it is a very important win.
The first match is crucial in these tournaments. “The first player to score goals at five World Cups, this makes me very proud.”There was only one man many of the 42,600 crowd came to see in Doha.
Getting off the metro at Ras Bu Aboud Station outside the ground, a mother, son and daughter all had on ‘Ronaldo 7’ shirts, with the boy saying he is “my favourite”. Just outside the turnstiles, supporters were gathering and taking pictures with some running and recreating his famous ‘Siu’ celebration.
Ronaldo was given a deafening cheer when he led his team out to warm up before the game and his name was afforded the loudest ovation when the Portugal teamsheet was read out.
As the side lined up for the national anthem, the camera panned to Ronaldo – the first man standing in the line-up – and he looked quite emotional while singing ‘A Portuguesa’, with tears filling his eyes.
The frontman, who had earlier missed two big chances and had a goal ruled out, saw his big moment come in the second half. With Southampton defender Mohammed Salisu in close attendance, Ronaldo hit the deck and the American referee pointed to the spot, which he stepped up to convert with aplomb.
Ronaldo darted off to the corner flag to perform his famous celebration, jumping and spinning round with ‘Siuuuu’ ringing around the stadium. Portugal boss Fernando Santo said: “One of the best players in the world, one of the best players ever. “Cristiano Ronaldo is a phenomenon, a legend like many who have comes and gone before. In 50 years’ time, we will continue to speak about him.”
Ronaldo was given a standing ovation when replaced by Goncalo Ramos with three minutes remaining and watched on aghast as Ghana’s Osman Bukari scored for Ghana and performed his celebration.