Led by the evergreen Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal opened their 2022 FIFA World Cup campaign with a 3-2 win over Group H rivals Ghana at the Stadium 974 on Thursday (24 November). Portugal’s Ronaldo, Joao Felix and Rafael Leao scored, while Ghana’s Andre Ayew and Osman Bukari scored.
Portugal dominated the opening exchanges, pushing the defenders forward to overload the flanks. Portuguese pressure finally opened up the Ghana defense in the 10th minute when Bernardo Silva released Ronaldo through the middle. The former Manchester United man, however, failed to control the ball with his first touch, which gave the keeper an excellent block.
Three minutes later, Raphael Guerreiro scored a great corner from the left. Ronaldo, displaying his unparalleled leap, met the delivery but failed to get it on target. In the 30th minute, Ronaldo found the net perfectly, but the referee penalized the 37-year-old player for a team foul.
Portugal tried to close the first half brightly, moving the ball faster and packing more bodies forward. Ghana stood strong and entered the break unscathed.
Portugal, who started the second half more lively, got the goal they were looking for in the 65th minute. He was brought down in the penalty area by their captain extraordinaire Mohammed Salisu and the referee pointed to the spot without hesitation. Confident as ever, the former Real Madrid man hit the back of the net to become the first player to score in five FIFA World Cups.
The Portuguese lead did not last long, but Ayew equalized eight minutes later. Mohammed Kudus came down the left inside channel in the final third and delivered a low cross for Ayew, who made no mistake turning it in from close range.
The 2016 European champions took a blow to the chin and immediately responded with two magnificent goals. First, in the 78th minute, Felix hit the back of the net with a clinical shot from the right wing. Minutes later, substitute Leao beat bloodied goalkeeper Lawrence Ati-Zig from the left.
Ghana should have been down and out after a double whammy, but the Africans chose to give the Iberians a real scare in their opening game of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Abdul Rahman Baba lifted a cross from the left in the 89th minute which took a deflection on its way to Bukari. The substitute made no mistake in punishing the goalkeeper from close range.
The Black Stars kept the heavyweights at bay for the remainder of the game but could not find a way out. Three Portuguese players who raised the curtain on the 2022 FIFA World Cup and two who disappointed against Ghana:
Performed by: Joao Felix
Atletico Madrid star Joao Felix struggled to get into the game in the first half, with Ghana doing their best to neutralize him. He improved considerably in the second 45, linked up well with the other Portuguese forwards and scored a stunning goal. Receiving a pass from Bruno Fernandes on the right, Felix cut inside and side-footed Ati-Zigi.
Goal aside, the FIFA World Cup debutant won four ground duels, delivered an accurate long ball and committed three fouls. He also cleared the ball once and attempted a tackle.
Underperformance: Ruben Neves
“Wolverhampton” midfielder Ruben Neves had a difficult evening against “Black Stars”. He struggled to keep up with Kudus’ quick feet, rarely progressed in the final third and performed poorly in one-on-one duels.
Against Ghana, Neves lost five of six ground duels, lost possession five times, dribbled three times and committed two fouls.
Performed by: Cristiano Ronaldo
The legendary striker of Portugal, Cristiano Ronaldo, made history in the game against Ghana. Not only did he become the first player to score in five World Cups, he also became the second oldest player in World Cup history (37 years and 292 days) to score. Legendary Cameroonian Roger Milla is currently the oldest goalscorer in history (42 years and 39 days).
Ronaldo’s history-making goal was from the penalty spot in the 65th minute. He put his foot through the ball and gave Ati-Zigi no chance. The legend of Real Madrid showed an admirable game, except for the goal he missed in the 10th minute.
Aside from the penalty, Ronaldo won three ground duels and two aerial duels; he committed three fouls and cleaned up.
Underperformance: Joao Cancelo
Manchester City defender Joao Cancelo can be a handful on his day. Fortunately for Ghana, he was not at his best on Thursday. Cancelo was partly to blame for Ghana’s opening goal in the 73rd minute. He was embarrassingly out of position, allowing Qudus to enter the Portugal box virtually unhindered and set up Ayew.
Cancelo also created no scoring opportunities, lost possession 15 times, lost two ground duels and misplaced a pass.
Performed by: Bruno Fernandes
Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes was the best Portuguese player at the 974 Stadium on Thursday night. His passing was spot on, he linked up with his teammates superbly and made two great passes.
First, he crossed the ball with Felix from the right wing in the 78th minute. The Atletico forward cut in and applied the emphatic finish. Moments later, he assisted Leao with a perfectly sized pass down the left-hand channel.
In the opening game of Group H, Fernandes provided three key passes, created two big chances, hit five accurate long balls and committed four fouls.