It was always going to be about him. Even if it had been 90 minutes of unrelenting tedium, with no shots and no goals, he would have been the focus after what, even by his standards, has been an extraordinary week.
But, this being Cristiano Ronaldo, there was always going to be a way he would wrestle the agenda away from off-field dramas and what better way to do it than by setting a record that might not be broken. We do not use those words lightly.
Bounced out of Old Trafford on Tuesday in a blaze of acrimony, Ronaldo became the first man in history to score at five World Cups. A run that started in Frankfurt in 2006 thanks to a penalty against Iran was extended, with fitting symmetry, in Doha thanks to a penalty against Ghana.
He won the kick himself in the 63rd minute – it was softly awarded by referee Ismail Elfath after he tangled with Southampton’s Mohammed Salisu – and had to wait an age before he could take it, Ruben Dias and Bruno Fernandes acting as bouncers as a posse of Ghanaians tried to put him off.
As if they could do that. With one bounce of the ball, one puff of his cheeks and a pronounced run up, Ronaldo swept the ball firmly past Lawrence Zigi and he was on his way, hurtling into the corner of Stadium 974 and celebrating with his trademark ‘SIU!’ jump. It felt like the whole crowd joined in.
What a moment. Whatever drama there has been at Manchester United, whatever your feelings about the tantrums and the constant negativity that has followed him this season, here you must separate it all and acknowledge sporting genius.
It matters not that Ronaldo, at 37, doesn’t move with gazelle-like speed that was a trademark of his youth, in those early World Cups in Germany and South Africa; it doesn’t matter that he isn’t operating at his Ballon d’Or peak winning years at Real Madrid.
This was history. This was moving past Pele, Uwe Seeler, Miroslav Klose and Lionel Messi into unchartered territory. It is what Ronaldo has done all his life but, for certain reasons, this one felt all the more special. His team-mates knew it, hugging him as if they didn’t want to let him go.
There was a lovely moment in the tunnel as he waited to come out. Having given high fives to the 22 mascots, one little boy couldn’t believe his good fortune and mouthed “Oh my God!” when he saw him standing in front of him in real life. He tried his luck for an extra hand slap and got it, too.
Whatever your feelings to Ronaldo, with the preening and the posturing, don’t forget to an innocent generation he remains a superhero, the man actually does on a pitch what only seems possible on a computer screen. That little boy had a night he will never forget – nor will many of us else here.
The occasion seemed to get to Ronaldo before kick-off and there were tears in his eyes as the Portuguese national anthem was played, aware there won’t be too many more opportunities of this kind – his time in the Champions League will be over, remember, if he moves to Saudi Arabia.
In a wretched first half, he was the one who looked capable of making something happen. He should have scored in the 10th minute when put through by Otavio but a heavy touch in front of the end containing Ghana’s wonderful, noisy and colourful fans allowed Zigi to save at his feet.
He smiled wryly, knowing he should have done better, but was grimacing three minutes later when he got his timings wrong, attempting to head in a cross from Raphael Guerriro at the back post. Again, he should have scored and he was blazing at himself for failing.
American official Elfath was the subject of his ire in the 31st minute when, for some reason, it was deemed that he had fouled Alexander Djiku, as he latched on to a ball from Joao Felix. Replays showed it was a ridiculous decision to disallow what appeared a legitimate goal but it didn’t matter.
Portugal deserved the breakthrough when it eventually came and the spot-kick, which was captured on heaven knows how many mobile phones for digital posterity, was awarded at a time when they were beginning to go through the gears.
Ghana, at least, came back into it into the 73rd minute, levelling when Porto defender Danilo got into a pickle, tangled his feet and enabled Andre Ayew to tap in after super work from Ajax youngster Mohammed Kudus down the left. On the halfway line, Ronaldo looked back in incredulity.
Was his night going to be ruined? As if. With Ghana losing their shape and discipline, Joao Felix and substitute Rafael Leao plundered the goals on the counterattack that secured their victory and Ronaldo might have had another himself but for a super save from Zigi.
Quite how he would have viewed things had Osman Bukari’s 89th minute strike for Ghana triggered an injury time onslaught can only be speculated – Ronaldo had been substituted, to a standing ovation – but he was spared that situation materialising.
At the final whistle, he was back on the field taking the adulation and hearing his name being read out as the Player of the Match. Some things, for better or worse, never change. With Cristiano Ronaldo, it was ever thus.