Portugal’s attack sees Cristiano Ronaldo & Co. past Ghana

RASS ABOU ABOUD, Qatar — Cristiano Ronaldo’s fifth and likely final World Cup started with a win after Portugal beat Ghana 3-2 at Stadion 974 on Thursday.

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Ronaldo, who officially left Manchester United on Tuesday, scored from a second-half penalty. And although Andre Ayew made it 1-1, Portugal took control with two goals in two minutes from Joao Felix and Rafael Leao. Osman Bukari came on as a substitute to make it 3-2, but Portugal held on despite a late goal when goalkeeper Diogo Costa nearly missed a bizarre chance in the final’s added-time second.

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Fast reaction

1. Portugal’s attacking talent gets them through but there are problems at the back

It is perhaps obvious that you will have no problem scoring goals with attacking players like Ronaldo, Felix, Leao, Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva. It was a stroke of luck that Portugal got three against Ghana.

The Black Stars, who scraped through qualification after a playoff against Nigeria, don’t usually score many goals but here they scored two anyway, first through Ayew and then Bukari. Bukari’s late header didn’t count for much after Portugal made it 3-1, but Ronaldo, who was on the bench at the time, was still enough to get his hands up in desperation.

Portugal have the strikers to rival any team at this World Cup, but they will struggle defensively against teams better than Ghana if they continue to lack concentration in defence. That’s best summed up in the last minute of added time when Costa rolled the ball wide and was nearly robbed by Inaki Williams.

2. Ronaldo scores his goal despite frustration in the first half

It looked like it might be one of those frustrating nights for Ronaldo – which he’s had plenty of this season at Man United – but in the end he achieved his goal of becoming the first male player to win at five World Cups goal scored .

His evening started with a clumsy foul after just 90 seconds, before 15 minutes he had lost a good chance after a pass from Otavio with a heavy touch and then went wide with a header at the far post. He would have been forgiven if he thought it wasn’t his day as after 31 minutes he ruled out a goal for a foul on Alexander Djiku and then suffered a severe blow to his right ankle from Seidu Alidu.

But after a week of headlines about his interview with Piers Morgan and his chaotic United exit, it was typical for Ronaldo to find the net – first showing fast pace to win a penalty under a challenge from Mohammed Salisu and strengthening then to score his 118th international goal. It’s never bad for a free agent to show they can still score at the highest level.

3. Ghana have improved from the AFCON nightmare but Portugal are proving too much

Ghana arrived in Qatar as the lowest-ranked team at the World Cup and all they need to do for this tournament to be considered a success is improve on their disastrous Africa Cup of Nations in January when they last Place of their group occupied one point from three games, losing to the Comoros.

They struggled to score in qualifying – they scored eight in eight games – and it took them a while to get going here, finishing the first half without a shot, let alone an on target. Ajax Amsterdam’s Mohammed Kudus has been lively in midfield but they need to create more chances for Williams, who joined from Spain in the summer.

Ghana were organized enough to keep Portugal’s attacking players quiet for a long time, but if they want to sneak out of Group H they need to take something from the games against Uruguay and South Korea.

The pair’s 0-0 draw on Thursday has Otto Addo’s side in contention for a place in the knockout rounds, but they need to rectify the mistakes that allowed Portugal to score twice in two minutes to end the game. Bukari’s header to make it 3-2 came too late, but they will still be disappointed after Williams came so close to pinching a dramatic equalizer from under Costa.


Player Ratings

Portugal: Diogo Costa (5), Joao Cancelo (6), Raphael Guerreiro (6), Ruben Dias (6), Danilo Pereira (6), Ruben Neves (6), Bernardo Silva (7), Otavio (6), Bruno Fernandes ( 8), Joao Felix (7), Cristiano Ronaldo (7).

Subtitle: William Carvalho (6), Rafael Leao (7), Joao Palhinha (6), Goncalo Ramos (6), Joao Mario (6).

Ghana: Lawrence Ati Zigi (6), Mohammed Salisu (5), Daniel Amartey (6), Alexander Djiku (5), Alidu Seidu (5), Abdul Baba Rahman (6), Thomas Partey (6), Salis Abdul Samed (6) , Mohammed Kudus (7), Andre Ayew (6), Inaki Williams (6).

Subtitle: Tariq Lamptey (6th), Osman Bukari (7th), Jordan Ayew (6th), Antoine Semenyo (6th), Daniel-Kofi Kyereh (6th).


Best and worst performers

BEST: Bruno Fernandes, Portugal. With the score at 1-1, Fernandes presented two beautiful passes to set up goals for Felix and Leao.

WORST: Seidu Alidu, Ghana. He was lucky not to be sent off for an apparent headbutt to Felix, who was already booked, and had to be substituted for his own good.


Highlights and notable moments

How many NBA players can Ronaldo overtake? The Portuguese captain is notorious for his fitness and it’s pretty obvious he doesn’t skip the day of the stages.

The moment Ronaldo became the first man to score in five World Cups.


After the game: What the players and coaches said

Portugal coach Fernando Santos: “I told the players at half-time that it’s important to stay focused and pick up the pace. We started the second half well, we scored, then I don’t know what happened. We conceded goals that came out of nowhere . No one can concede goals that come out of nowhere. We woke up again, got back into the game and scored two goals.”

Neves: “It was very important to start with a win, that was our goal. There are no easy games, all teams are organized. We won in a difficult and strange game. We controlled the first half and Ghana only defended. Then in the second.” Halfway with our goal there was more pressure from Ghana, maybe we should have been more pragmatic. The way we reacted to the Ghana goal was crucial. We didn’t go under, we were positive, we reacted well and quickly. It was a deserved win despite the difficulties we faced in the final stages of the game.”


Key Stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)

– Ronaldo is the first man to score in five World Cups: 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022.

– At 37 years and 292 days, Ronaldo is the oldest player to score for Portugal at the World Cup. In 2006, aged 21 years and 132 days, he became the youngest player to score for Portugal with his goal against Iran in the group stage of the World Cup.

– Ronaldo has now scored eight World Cup goals for Portugal, the second most in the nation’s history behind Eusebio’s nine.

– Ghana are the 27th different team Ronaldo has scored multiple times in his international career. He also scored against Ghana at the 2014 World Cup.


Next

Portugal: Ronaldo & Co. are back in action on Monday when they take on Uruguay at 2pm ET at the Lusail Iconic Stadium.

Ghana: The Ghanaians also play on Monday when they travel to Education City Stadium at 8:00am ET to take on South Korea.

https://www.espn.com/soccer/fifa-world-cup/story/4806884/portugal-attack-sees-cristiano-ronaldo-and-co-past-ghana Portugal’s attack sees Cristiano Ronaldo & Co. past Ghana

Emma Bowman

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