Unemployed Cristiano Ronaldo yesterday, started his fifth World Cup in Qatar against Ghana in a Group H match at Stadium 974 in Doha on a controversial note, when he fell to the ground and got awarded a penalty, which has since divided the football world.
Interestingly, during a post-match show, former Portuguese professional footballer Luis Figo, who played with Ronaldo said: “I don’t think it was a penalty but I welcome it.”
Manchester United legend, Wayne Rooney, had a tongue-in-cheek reply. “I think Ronaldo has used all of his experience as a forward to get that penalty,” the 37-year-old former club mate of Ronald said.
The Portuguese, effortlessly fell to the ground, following a 50-50 tackle from Mohammed Salisu, and the American referee, Ismael Elfath, awarded a penalty to Portugal and there was no subsequent ‘Video Assistant Referee’ (VAR) check, despite protests from the Ghanaian players for him to re-evaluate his decision.
There are also a few, who have claimed that Salisu pushed the forward from behind, and the referee’s decision was a fair call. However, the decision to award the penalty, has been criticised by some on social media since last night.
The third goal by Portugal, is also being described as offside and although the Ghanaian players protested, it was not verified. It was a night where the match official made nonsense of the VAR machine.
Another person by name Magical Xavi, wrote on twitter “last time Ronaldo dived and Won a penalty, Portugal was knocked out in RO16.
The play that triggered the madness, though, was one that Ghanaian coach Otto Addo called “a special gift from the referee.”
It was a penalty that Ronaldo won and converted — but should it have been one? “Why?” Addo questioned.
“Because it’s Ronaldo or something?” The Portuguese star stretched for a ball alongside Ghanaian defender Mohammed Salisu and both appeared to contact it.
“We played the ball,” Addo said. But Ismael Elfath, the American referee, pointed to the penalty spot. His video assistant didn’t intervene. Ronaldo converted the spot kick at the 65th minute, and became the first man to score in five World Cups, and with that, the eruption began.
One Gordon Hill also tweeted; Sorry but that was no penalty for Portugal, Ronaldo played for that. I can understand why Ghana are upset. I think the refs have been awful, no consistency in this world cup so far.
UK Diplomat Jon Benjamin, who once served as High Commissioner in Ghana, also Never a penalty in a million years! #Ronaldo is the #GOAT of diving in this game. #Ghana cheated, their defender got the ball first! #VAR didn’t even seem to review it.
Andre Ayew ,equalized eight minutes later after the controversial penalty, but Joao Felix and Rafael Leao, the two young attackers who’ll replace Ronaldo someday, sent a pro-Portuguese crowd into raptures with two goals in less than three minutes, which seemingly put the game away.
However, Ghana responded, yet again, in the 89th minute. Osman Bukari, pulled a goal back, and wheeled away toward the corner flag, and hit Ronaldo’s trademark “SIIIUUU” celebration.
“A little bit crazy,” his teammate Antoine Semenyo said of Bukari’s celebration postgame.
The rest of his teammates, though, snatched the ball and sprinted back toward the center circle. They had one minute of the 90 plus nine minutes of stoppage time to get a third.
And in one of the last of those minutes, at the end of a bonkers half, they nearly got it. After an attack had fizzled out into the hands of Portugal goalkeeper Diogo Costa, Inaki Williams snuck behind him unseen. Costa dropped the ball to play it long. Williams pounced, and sent Portuguese hearts into mouths ever so briefly.
But he slipped at the vital moment. Portuguese defenders recovered. And the favorites held on for three points.
In the aftermath, Portuguese chatter centered on Ronaldo, who, at the end of a messy two weeks, could finally let his soccer do the talking.
For most of his 87 minutes, he’d looked slow and anything but sharp. The goal, though, made him a somewhat baffling choice for man of the match.
Which, in turn, made him FIFA’s choice for the post-match news conference. “This chapter is closed after this week,” he said when asked about the controversy surrounding his explosive interview and subsequent split with Manchester United. “It is done.”
Ghanaian chatter, though, centered in part on the penalty. Players were reticent. “It’s a dodgy one,” Semenyo said. “But, I don’t know.”
“I think you saw,” defender Tariq Lamptey, said when asked by a reporter. “You can give your opinion.”
Addo, the coach, did share his. He said he asked to speak with Elfath, the referee, “in a calm and quiet way.” He said he was told by FIFA officials that Elfath was in a meeting and unavailable.
“I don’t know what they are doing, whether they were not paying attention,” he said of the refereeing team. “Whether the VAR, wasn’t paying attention. It was just incredible.”
“Up to the penalty, everything was possible,” he added. “Then the game got a little bit wild.”