DOHA: Two days after Lionel Messi had lit up the Lusail Stadium, this was Cristiano Ronaldo’s moment to revel at the showpiece arena for the World Cup in Qatar. But was it?

The faintest of touches from Ronaldo’s head seemed to have given Portugal the lead against Uruguay. Close-up replays showed Ronaldo hadn’t got the decisive touch to Bruno Fernandes’ curling cross from the left in the 54th minute.

Ronaldo thought it was his goal, one that brought him level on nine goals with the legendary Eusebio as Portugal’s all-time top-scorer at the World Cup, and celebrated wildly. But it was later awarded to Fernandes, who would score a late penalty — with Ronaldo having been substituted — in added time to secure a spot in the round of 16 for Portugal with a game to spare.

Confusion over the identity of the goalscorer continued to dominate all talk after the match.

“I celebrated as if it was Cristiano’s goal,” Fernandes, named man-of-the-match, told a post-game press conference. “It seemed to me that he had touched the ball. The aim was to cross it for him.

“We’re happy with the victory regardless of who scored. The most important thing is that we achieved our aim which is to be in the next round.”

Questions about who scored the goal, though, lingered on. In the mixed zone, Ruben Neves and Bernardo Silva were asked the same questions.

“I didn’t see it,” said Neves. “But the most important thing is that we scored the goal that gave us the momentum for the win and go through.

“We still have one more game to play [in the group stage against South Korea],” he said, when asked if there was a team Portugal were looking to avoid in the last-16. “And then we will see to that.”

Silva didn’t delve into the goal-scorer debate but said Portugal were very happy to have qualified with a game to spare. Asked by a reporter what was Portugal’s next goal after securing progression, Silva said with a smile on his face: “To qualify for the quarter-finals … beyond that, I will tell you after the quarter-final.”

Portugal’s victory, having opened their campaign with a 3-2 win over Ghana, puts them in pole position to finish top in Group ‘H’ and possibly avoid a first knockout clash with Brazil, are on course to finish top of Group ‘G’, in the round of 16 crossover.

It was at that stage four years ago in Russia where Portugal came unstuck against Uruguay; Edinson Cavani’s brace leading the South Americans to a 2-1 victory.

They banished the demons of that defeat on Monday and having kept their focus, amid the distraction of Ronaldo’s saga with Manchester United, they head into the knockouts confident of their ability that they can go all the way. But for now, they’re taking it one step at a time.

“Two wins from two games is what I wanted for the team,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos told a news conference. “We need to improve our combinations and to prevent opponents from attacking our area. There are things to improve but we need to see the positive side.

“There is great satisfaction about crossing the first lap,” he added. “We are not yet sure of finishing top [of the group] and we need to do that first.”

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2022

Opinion

Editorial

Losing grip
Updated 29 Jan, 2023

Losing grip

The state and the government are responsible for providing Imran with the security he deserves as a former prime minister.
Telling silence
Updated 29 Jan, 2023

Telling silence

THE silence of the Sindh government over the recent exposé in this paper about Karachi’s water tanker mafia ...
Palestine escalation
29 Jan, 2023

Palestine escalation

THE fire of conflict once again threatens to envelop the land of Palestine, as the growing cycle of violence refuses...
IMF package
Updated 28 Jan, 2023

IMF package

While it is crucial to seek immediate IMF funding to shore up its reserves, the govt shouldn’t focus only on short-term relief.
Dar unpegged
28 Jan, 2023

Dar unpegged

IT is over. Nearly four months after Ishaq Dar descended on the cash-strapped economy with some decidedly outlandish...
Lurking hazards
28 Jan, 2023

Lurking hazards

OVERSIGHT of illegal industrial activity occurring within residential areas in the country is weak, especially in...