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Journalism of Courage

Bruno Fernandes or Cristiano Ronaldo: Whose goal was it, anyway?

It was technology that was the winner as Bruno Fernandes credited with the goal that Cristiano Ronaldo claimed was his.

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo in action against Uruguay at the Lusail Stadium. (AP)

A sensor on a ball that can send data at the rate of 500 times a second. It also helps in detecting a precise kick point.

That’s the kind of data FIFA get at this World Cup being held in Qatar. The Adidas ball, called Al Rihla (the journey, in Arabic), comes with an inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensor that also aids in making tight offside calls. The sensor, which is placed at the centre of the ball, constantly sends data to the video operation room.

This truly is a World Cup of technology. And it was this technology that decided it was Bruno Fernandes and not Cristiano Ronaldo who scored Portugal’s opening goal against Uruguay on Monday night.

Fernandes crossed the ball from the left side of the pitch and Ronaldo jumped the highest as the ball went into the goal. He celebrated wildly as the goal, had it stood, would have seen him level former Real Madrid with Eusebio as Portugal’s highest goal scorer at World Cups. He would also have surpassed Lionel Messi in their race for more World Cup goals.

However, replays later showed that Ronaldo had just missed connecting with the ball.

Announcers in the stadium credited the goal to Fernandes even as the official scorecard mentioned Ronaldo as the scorer. The scoreline was later ratified and the goal officially given to Fernandes.

As with anything Ronaldo, the endless debate raged on social media.
Some, including Piers Morgan who Ronaldo gave an interview that ended his second stint at Manchester United, said Ronaldo had clearly touched the ball. Most poked fun at Ronaldo for celebrating a goal he didn’t score and for wrongly claiming credit for it.


England cricketer Chris Woakes asked for a snicko — the sensor used in cricket to determine if the ball has made contact with the ball — to be used to determine if Ronaldo actually touched the ball.
“What’s snicko saying on that ‘Ronaldo’ goal? flat line I reckon,” he tweeted.

England footballing great Gary Linekar, who’s heading the BBC World Cup coverage, too joined in, saying he too, would’ve claimed the goal.

While fans may have divided opinions, the sensors on the ball are believed to signal even the softest of touches.



The stadiums in Qatar have 12 tracking cameras underneath the roof that can track “up to 29 data points of each individual player, 50 times per second, calculating their exact position on the pitch.” The data points include all limbs and extremities that will help in making right offside calls.

Players can know data points such as the distance covered by them on the pitch through multiple cameras deployed in stadiums. A series of algorithms and models are being used to integrate the tracking data. Players will get detailed analyses, including receiving locations of the ball on the pitch, and the pressure applied to the player in possession of the ball.

Replays from above, as well as numerous close-ups, attempted to determine if Ronaldo had managed the smallest of touches after he rose to head in Fernandes’ cross.

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Ronaldo will have plenty more opportunities to write his name into even more records. Portugal are through to the Round of 16 and they still have their last group match against South Korea left.

First published on: 29-11-2022 at 16:32 IST
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