Cristiano Ronaldo broke an amazing record in the opening fixture against Ghana on Thursday 24th November 2022 becoming the first male player to score in five World Cup Finals.
Portugal endured a rather sloppy start to the game which was tilted heavily in their favour. The Black Stars set out to hold their opponents defensively as all players hung up behind the centre half to prevent Ronaldo and co from breaking through. This led to Portugal trying longer balls over the top but for all of Ronaldo’s years of experience, he doesn’t have the pace of yesteryear and he was starting to show the kind of frustrations that we have seen at Manchester United in the last 18 months.
This was epitomised when the striker did get a chance to break through the defensive wall, with him latching onto a through pass but he was just too slow and was beaten to the ball by Zigi.
Ghana got a decent chance in the second half to open the scoring with Mohammed Kudus weaving his way beautifully between two Portugal defenders, sprinting almost half the length of the pitch before striking a wonderful shot just wide of the goal.
Portugal finally found a golden chance minutes beyond the hour-mark as Ronaldo went to ground in the penalty box under little pressure from Salisu, stepping up to slot the penalty home. This was the moment that Ronaldo broke another record to add to the many he has broken throughout his career.
Ghana equalized through an Andre Ayew tap into the net but Portugal regained the lead through Joao Felix. The Europeans seemingly wrapped up the night in the 80th minute with substitute, Rafael Leao, collecting Bruno Fernandes’ pass on the left flank and finishing in style but Ghana reduced the margin nine minutes later through Bukari’s header. Ghana managed a few more attempts but it was not enough to get an equalizer. Portugal knew that they had been in a game and will be relieved to have avoided another World Cup 2022 upset.
Ghana’s Change in Strategy Bore Fruit
For the entirety of the first half, the Black Stars chose to sit very deep, only managing a few counters whenever they were afforded the opportunity by the Portuguese. They were very disciplined, maintaining a deep backline and keeping Portugal’s crosses away from danger. But a shift in strategy was the turning point of the game in the second half. Ghana pushed up the pitch, trying to create more chances and oust the Portuguese in the midfield. It caught Portugal off guard as their threats increased significantly but this also turned out to be a double-edged knife as this form of open play was contributory in Portugal scoring all three goals(the first via a penalty, the third courtesy of a defensive error from Ghana). Even though the Ghanaian defence conceded all three goals in the half, they were able to at least get two of theirs in the Portuguese net and almost got an equalizer. They were just few inches from a point in a match they came into as underdogs.
What Next for Ronaldo and Portugal
Portugal now sit at the top of Group H with Uruguay and South Korea having played out a lacklustre goalless draw earlier today. For the Euro 2016 Champions, they’re very much in the driving seat and would find it relatively easier to make it to the last 16 while Ghana would have to dig deep if they’re to make their campaign here in Qatar worthwhile. As for Ronaldo, he has taken the pressure off with his goal and record after months of uncertainty and controversy, not least his ill advised interview with Piers Morgan that has led to his leaving of Manchester United. Yet despite that record breaking goal, Ronaldo isn’t the player he once was and Portugal will have to be much better if they are to reach the later stages of the World Cup.
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