World Cup briefing: Jobless Cristiano Ronaldo makes history

On Thursday night, Cristiano Ronaldo made history. His goal against Ghana – a penalty just after the hour mark – made him the first player to score at five separate World Cups.

The feat is a testament to his enduring talent and the length of his reign at the top of the men’s game. No wonder he still competes with Lionel Messi to be the official GOAT of the soccer world.

“Cristiano Ronaldo is a phenomenon,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said after the match. “In 50 years we will continue to talk about him.

Still, the 37-year-old striker is looking for work. Earlier this week, his contract with Manchester United was terminated with immediate effect – the result of a bombshell interview he gave to Piers Morgan.

After Thursday’s game, he was asked about his future. He swerved. All he can think about right now is this Portuguese team and the World Cup. “The rest, it doesn’t matter,” he said before leaving the postgame press conference.

Earlier in the day, Saudi Arabia’s sports minister helped set the tone. In an interview with the BBC, he was asked if Ronaldo could be lured by the Saudi league. After all, the Gulf state has been pushing hard in international sports.

“Everything is possible,” said Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal. “I would love to see Cristiano Ronaldo play in the Saudi league.”

Messi has already signed a deal to promote tourism in Saudi Arabia. Maybe there will be a package tour to watch Ronaldo in the next holiday brochure.

Friday to watch: Qatar’s last chance at redemption

Saad Al Sheeb, Qatar's goalkeeper, missed a shot from Ecuador in the team's first match at the World Cup.

Saad Al Sheeb, Qatar’s goalkeeper, missed a shot from Ecuador in the team’s first match at the World Cup. © AP

Qatar’s soccer passion has been built at great expense in the Aspire Academy, a state-of-the-art facility in Doha with coaches, sports scientists and other experts from around the world.

The task of building a competitive team – more than a decade in the making – faced its biggest test on the tournament’s opening day. It was a dismal failure as Qatar’s national team lost 2-0 to Ecuador.

Even without the injured Sadio Mané, Senegal should be an even tougher opponent on Friday afternoon. But for Qatar, this is their last chance. A loss here would ensure an early exit and push the team’s name into contention for the tournament’s worst side. Qatar’s long-term football ambitions could then be up for debate.

Playlist:

Wales vs Iran, 10am UK time/1pm Doha time

Qatar vs Senegal, 1pm UK time/4pm Doha time

Netherlands vs Ecuador, 16:00 UK time/19:00 Doha time

England vs USA, 7pm UK time/10pm Doha time

Thursday’s highlight: The first round shuffles the pack of potential champions

Brazil celebrates a goal against Serbia

Still favourites, Brazil celebrate a goal against Serbia © REUTERS

We have now seen each team play their first match in Qatar, with a few setbacks along the way. The favorites list looks a little different as a result.

Brazil remain the most backed team to lift the World Cup (perhaps thanks to Richarlison’s wonder goal against Serbia). But behind them are currently the top scorers Spain and England, both at 7/1. A little further back are holders France, who won an impressive 4-1 victory over Australia.

Meanwhile, Argentina’s star has fallen, at least a little. They are now 19/2 to become world champions for the first time since 1986. But they will have to get off to a pretty quick start: a loss to Mexico this weekend would prove fatal to those ambitions.

As for Germany, they are now a distant 29/1 to win the tournament after their late defeat at the hands of Japan. After getting bounced in the first round in 2018, another early exit in a row is looming.

Overall results:

Switzerland 1 Cameroon 0

Uruguay 0 South Korea 0

Portugal 3 Ghana 2

Brazil 2 Serbia 0

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