Three Talking Points: Portugal 3-2 Ghana

Cristiano Ronaldo scores in a record fifth World Cup via fortunate penalty
The now-former Manchester United striker made history by becoming the first player to score in five World Cups but the penalty via which that feat was achieved was more than questionable. Having defended stoutly to that point, Ghana’s Mohammed Salisu was beaten to the ball by Ronaldo but seemed to provide little to no contact before the Portuguese fell to the ground, looking to entangle legs on his way down. Oddly, the referee wasn’t invited to assess his decision via the pitch side monitor, despite video replays showing little evidence of a foul. Ronaldo, however, stepped up to fire home the spot kick to open the scoring.

Portugal badly lack cohesion and intensity
Despite some fluctuating recent form in the Nations League and qualifiers, Portugal under Fernando Santos have often been a functional and one-dimensional team at recent major tournaments, despite their EURO 2016 success and individual quality. Here Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes and João Félix again struggled to find fluidity in a lax and complacent first hour. A tiring Ghana defence and their wasteful midfield were behind Portugal’s trio of second-half goals, rather than Fernandes and Co., breaking down their opposition. Given their collective flare and vision, Santos’ side should offer far more creativity and will need to find their flare if they plan on going further than recent last 16 offerings in this tournament.

The tournament’s lowest-ranked team aren’t the worst side in Qatar
Despite being ranked 61st in the world by FIFA heading into the tournament, after fellow unfancied nations such as Australia, Iran and Costa Rica were dismantled by some tournament favourites, Ghana proved their competitiveness here. Although isolated for long periods, Bilbao striker Iñaki Williams is an important addition after switching allegiances from Spain, as is Lens’ midfield enforcer Salis Abdul Samed, who was recently promoted to the starting team. Ajax midfielder Mohammed Kudus underlined his potential as a versatile all-round midfielder at just 22 while Ghana’s trio of centre-backs have good European pedigree. Uruguay and South Korea face tough games against the Black Stars.


More European Football News