Match report: Portugal 3-2 Ghana
Group H: A stodgy contest morphed into a thriller and, cutting through it all, Cristiano Ronaldo managed to own the story. Nick Ames reports from Doha.
Diogo Costa: Although his team has just won, the Portugal goalkeeper looked distraught as he left the pitch following the error that almost let Inaki WIlliams in for a late, late, late equaliser. Cristiano Ronaldo and other Portuguese players try to console the goalkeeper, who was very lucky to get away with the mistake of not having a peep over his shoulder before dropping the ball in front of him.
A quick recap: The game was scoreless after a largely pedestrian first half but Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring for Portugal from the penalty spot after 65 minutes. Andre Ayew didn’t take long to restore parity for Ghana but Portugal pulled clear courtesy of tidy finishes from Joao Felix and the subsitue Rafael Leao.
Osman Bukari came off the bench to head Ghana back into contention, only for Inaki Williams to slip at the crucial moment as he deceived Portugal goalkeeper Diogo Costa and looked set fair to steal a point for his side.
Full time: Portugal 3-2 Ghana
Peep! Peep! Peeeeeeeeep! It’s all over and a game that took well over an hour to burst into life has ended in fine style. Portugal take the points but only just. Portugal goalkeeper Diogo Costa came perilously close to gifting Ghana an equaliser in the 10th minute of added time but it was he, not Inaki Williams, who the football gods were smiling upon.
90+10 min: Oh wow! Portugal goalkeeper Diogo Costa drops the ball in front of him, oblivious to the presence of Inaki Williams lurking with deadly intent behind him. Williams darts forward and steals the ball but slips as he turns to shoot it goalwards. That’s a serious let-off for Jota and no mistake.
90+9 min: Diogo Costa leaps to claim a dropping ball into the Portugal box.
90+8 min: With one goal to his name already, Bukari tries his luck with an audacious effort, lofting the ball towards the corner from distance. It’s wide but not by much.
90+6 min: Time isn’t on Ghana’s side but that doesn’t stop Daniel Amartey committing a completely stupid foul on Goncalo Ramos as the Portuguese substitute tries to keep the ball down by the corner flag.
90+3 min: I’ve menitoned previously that Joao Cancelo has not played well for Porrtugal tonight and he was at fault for that second goal. He gave Rahman Baba all the time in the world to get a cross into the Portugal box, where the unmarked Buklari’s task could scarcely have been simpler.
90+2 min: Ghana double-substitution: Antoine Semenyo and Daniel Kofi Kyerah on for Salis Samed and Alexander Djiku.
90+1 min: We’ll have nine minutes of added time. Those Portugal changes: Joao Palinha, Joao Maria and Goncalo Ramos on for Joao Felix, Ronaldo and Bernardo Silva off.
GOAL! Ghana 2-3 Portugal (Bukari 89)
Ghana pull one back. Seconds after Portugal make a triple-substitution, an unmarked Bukari converts a cross from the left by heading home at the far post.
86 min: Let’s go back to Portugal’s second goal. Displeased with being taken off and replaced with his little brother, Andre Ayew had cross words with his manager, Otto Addo. Having made his feelings known to the gaffer, he turned to receive the warm congratulations of his pals on the bench and while standing with his back to the pitch, missed Joao Felix’s goal which rather took the wind out of his sails.
84 min: How slow is Ghana Alexander Djiku? Cristiano Ronaldo left him eating dust just there in a manner that suggested the central defender was running in honey.
82 min: Cristiano Ronaldo finds himself through on goal in a one-on-one with Ghana goalkeeper Lawrence Ati-Zigi, who rushes off his line and saves superbly from the Portugal captain as he tries to lift the ball over him. The flag goes up.
GOAL! Portugal 3-1 Ghana (Leao 80)
Portugal stretch their lead! Just on for Ruben Neves, Rafael Leao finishes into the far corner after latching on to an beautifully weighted through ball from Bruno Fernandes, who’d advanced unopposed from the halfway line.
79 min: That goal came just seconds after Ghana had made a double-substitution, with Andre Ayew making way for his brother Jordan, while Osman BNukari replaced Mohammed Kudus.
GOAL! Portugal 2-1 Ghana (Felix 78)
Portugal retake the lead! It’s a lovely finish from Joao Felix, who lifts the ball over Ati-Zigi as he advances down the inside left of the Ghana penalty area.
74 min: Having been playing in his preferred position of midfield, Muhammed Kudus at time looked a liability in the first half, constantly giving the ball away. Now paying further upfield, where he’s much more effective, he’s just had a rasping shot saved before teeing up Andre Ayew for Ghana equaliser with a pull-back through the legs of a Portuguese defender.
GOAL! Portugal 1-1 Ghana (Ayew 73)
Ghana equalise! Andre Ayew prods home a Muhammed Kudus pull-back from the byline to restore parity for the African side.
71 min: Latching on to a Thomas Partey backheel, Muhammed Kudus stings the palms of Portugal goalkeeper goalkeeper Diogo Costa with a rising drive.
68 min: Ghana substitution: Otto Addo makes the eminently sensible decision to remove red card-in-waiting Alidu Seidu and replace him with Brighton’s Tariq Lamptey.
66 min: I’m not so sure that should have been a penalty, as Mohammed Salisu seemed to get his toe to the ball before makingh contact with Ronaldo as he veered across him. Having said that, my opinion doesn’t matter and Morocco born, Texas-based referee Ismail Elfath clearly disagreed.
GOAL! Portugal 1-0 Ghana (Ronaldo 65pen)
Portugal lead! After lengthy protests from Ghana’s players, Ronaldo steps up and buries the ball past Lawrence Ati-Zigi. He’s now scored at five World Cups.
PENALTY FOR PORTUGAL!
61 min: Ronaldo goes down in the box under a challenge from Salisu and the extremnely lenient referee points to the spot.
60 min: I can’t believe Seidu got away with that. While Felix was the intial aggressor, the Ghana full-back went nose to nose with him and shoved him backwards with his head. It wasn’t the most violent butt you’ll ever see, far from it … but I’ve seen players get straight red cards for such actions in the past.
58 min: Already on a yellow card, a violently protesting Seidu is led away by his teammates after going face to face with Joao Felix, getting right up in the Portuguese striker’s grill and shoving him backwards with his head. The Portuguese forward drops to the ground theatrically and Seidu gets away with a ticking-off from the extremely lenient referee instead of a second yellow followed by a red.
57 min: Portugal substitution: William Carvalho on for Otavio, who appears to have shipped a knock.
56 min: Muhammed Kudus surges forward with the ball at his feet and unleashes a low drive from distance. His decent effort fizzes a couple of feet wide of the upright.
55 min: On the left side of the Ghana penalty area, Ronaldo is unable to create an angle for a shot. He elects to cross instead but his effort is blocked.
52 min: Joao Cancelo is having something of a shocker by the usual high standards we’ve come to expect from him in a Manchester CIty shirt. In a promising position out wide in acres of space after being fed the ball by Ruben Neves, he tries to cut inside instead of crossing the ball, loses it to Muhammed Kudus and falls over.
51 min: Not a great deal continues to happen at great length. Portugal continue to dominate possession while doing precious little with it.
49 min: Andre Ayew is booked for a clumsy challenge on Otavio, who’d just turned him.
47 min: Bernardo Silva is dispossesed by Rahman Baba deep in the Ghana half and the left-back advances upfield. Fun fact: Ghana have yet to enjoy a touch of the ball in the Portugal penalty area.
Second half: Portugal 0-0 Ghana
46 min: Ghana kick off with no changes in personnel on either side. It’s a bit of a surprise as I thought Fernando Santos might shake things up in the Portuguese ranks. At half-time in the ITV studio, Roy Keane said he was “getting angry” watching this match and nobody wants that. Do they? Oh.
Half-time: Portugal 0-0 Ghana
Peep! After just two minutes of added time, the teams go in for the break with the game scoreless. Portugal have dominated and probably should have scored but Cristiano Ronaldo has missed the two good chances that came his way.
45 min: Muhammed Kudus is booked for a high boot that catches the similarly outstretched foot of Joao Cancelo and sends the Portugal right-back to ground with a loud roar of pain.
45 min: Otavio mishits a cross from the right into the Ghana penalty area and sends the ball over the bar.
44 min: Joao Cancelo whips the ball across the Ghana penalty area with extreme prejudice but it’s behind everyone in a red and green shirt.
42 min: Ronaldo gives up the chase for a cross from the right because the ball’s too high for him to head. Oblivious to the fact that Joao Felix is behind him, he switches off and is unable to adjust his feet when his strike partner sidefoots the dropping ball his way.
40 min: Any time Ghana find themselves with a goal-kick, Portugal’s front three line up in such a way as to dissuade their opponents to risk playing out from the back. It’s a tactic that’s working as, forced to kick the ball long instead, they keep gifting possession straight back to Portugal.
39 min: And they say Ronaldo doesn’t defend, eh? Eh?!?!?!?
37 min: Ghana win a corner, their first of the game. Kudus delivers the ball to the near post, where Ruben Neves heads clear. The ball drops for Kudus, who sends it into the mixer again. Fernandes heads the ball out for another corner, which Ronaldo heads clear.
36 min: An extremely feeble shot from Otavio rolls into the waiting arms of Ati-Zigi, who had time to drop to his knees to claim it.
35 min: Salisu plays the ball towards Inaki Williams, just to remind the Ghana striker what it looks like as it’s been so long since he’s had a sighting of it. The pass is underhit and Portugal reclaim possession.
33 min: Andre Ayew heads the ball out for a Portugal corner, which Otavio takes. He floats a high ball into the Ghana penalty area, where goalkeeper Lawrence Ati-Zigi leaps to claim it with both hands.
31 min: Ronaldo latches on to a pass from Felix, spins away from Alexander Djiku and gets the ball in the Ghana net with a tidy finish but is penalised for a shove on the defender in the build-up. It was a foul but a fairly inoccuous one; Ronaldo looks suitably aggrieved and the deadlock remains unbroken.
30 min: A Brino Fernandes free-kick from deep into the Ghana penalty area is underhit and headed clear.
28 min: Joao Cancelo sends a cross from the left into the Ghana penalty area but it’s overhit and sails towards Bernardo Silva on the far wing. He tees up Joao Felix for a shot on goal with a ball inside but the Atletico Madrid man sends his effort high and wide.
26 min: A Guerreiro cross into the box from the left is headed clear by Amartey after good work by Fernades and Ronaldo for Portugal in the build-up.
25 min: Otavio tries to pick out a Bruno Fernandes run with a speculative ball from deep. He’s not quite accurate enough and the ball goes out of play for a goal kick.
24 min: Andre Ayew wins a free-kick, drawing a foul from Ruben Neves halfway inside his own half. Ghana take it and immediately cede possession again.
23 min: Daniel Amartey fails to clear an Otavio dink with any conviction and is immediately put on the back foot, under pressure from Joao Felix on the ball. The Portuguese tries and fails to pick out Ronaldo in the penalty area.
22 min: Ghana spread the ball from one side of the pitch to the other and get forward courtesy of Andre Ayew, who ends up playing it back to Seidu.
19 min: Ghana right-back Alidu Seidu is penalised for a bodycheck on Raphael Guerreiro out by the touchline and Portugal win a free-kick. Nothing comes of it. The match is being played at a quite pedestrian pace and could perhaps do with an injection of intensity.
18 min: Mohammed Kudus has looked decidedly ropey in these early stages, playing a withdrawn role in the Ghanaian midfield but he does well here, getting the ball forward before spreading it wide.
16 min: Inaki Williams tries to latch on to an excellent long ball from the back played by Mohammed Salisu but his first touch lets him down.
12 min: A cross from the left and Ronaldo rises unmarked at the far post. The ball’s on a plate for him and he simply can’t miss … but somehow he does, sending his downward header the wrong side of the upright with half the goal gaping.
11 min: Bernardo Silva and Otavio combine down the inside-left but the latter’s shot from distance is blocked by a defender.
9 min: Now Ghana goalkeeper Lawrence Ati-Zigi is quick off his line to deny Ronaldo, diving at the Portuguese captain’s feet to smother the ball. Ronaldo had been played in behind after Kudus had given the ball away again with a heavy touch, but was unable to lift the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper.
7 min: Portugal continue to enjoy the majority of possession but have yet to create anything in the way of a goalscoring chance. For their part, Ghana are the fifth and final African team to play in this tournament and hope to become the first to score. Kudus gets a cross into the Portugal box from the left but Diogo Costa is quick off his line to gather.
5 min: Ghana right-back Alidu Seidu takes a throw-in halfway inside his own half but his side quickly give the ball away courtesy of a misplaced Daniel Amartey pass. Portugal are dominating these early stages. Now Momhammad Kudus gives the ball away, allowing Ruben Neves to get a shot away. It’s blocked.
3 min: Ghana have lined up in a 5-3-2 while Portugal are playing a 4-3-3. THe Euyropean side win the first corner of the game after good work down the left flank by Raphael Guerreiro. The inswinger is headed clear at the near post and bounces nicely for Octavio, who lashes a shot well wide.
2 min: Portugal ping the ball hither and yon until Ronaldo takes a heavy touch and concedes a free-kick while trying to win the ball back near the halfway line. Mohammed Salisu sends the ball forward and it’s headed clear on the edge of the Portugal penalty area.
Portugal v Ghana is go ...
1 min: Cristiano Ronaldo gets the ball rolling for Portugal, their players wearing red and green shirts, olive green shorts and red socks. The players of Ghana are a vision in all white kit. Game on!
Not long now: The teams march out of the tunnel behind American referee Ismail Elpath and his team of match officials. Auditioning for a new club now that he is officially “unattached”, Cristiano Ronaldo leads out Portugal. Andre Ayew wears the captain’s armband for Ghana. It’s time for the national anthems.
Ghana: It’s difficult to know what to expect from Ghana, who are outside the top 60 of Fifa’s rankings and had an unspeakably bad African Cup of Nations in January, finishing bottom of their group with just one point, suffering the humiliation of defeat at the hands of Comoros along the way.
That disastrous showing earned Ghana head coach Milovan Rajevac his P45 and he was replaced with the former Borussia Dortmund midfielder Otto Addo. Still employed by the Bundesliga side as a scout, he promptly steered Ghana through a World Cup play-off against Nigeria. Former Brighton manager Chris Hughton, former Dutch international George Boateng and former Nordsjælland coach Mas Dramani are also part of Ghana’s new leadership structure.
Portugal v Ghana starting line-ups
Portugal: Diogo Costa, Joao Cancelo, Danilo Pereira, Ruben Dias, Raphael Guerreiro, Ruben Neves, Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Otavio, Joao Felix, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ghana: Lawrence Ati-Zigi, Abdul-Rahman Baba, Daniel Amartey, Alexander Djiku, Mohammed Salisu, Alidu Seidu, Thomas Partey, Salis Abdul Samed, Mohammed Kudus, Andre Ayew, Inaki Williams.
Portugal: Coach Fernando Santos says squad are as integrated as they have been in years despite the enduring soap opera. Nick Ames reports from Doha.
Interview: “That’s when I went to talk to my grandad. I told him there was a chance that I could play for Ghana at the World Cup and what did he think. He said straight away that he didn’t have long left to live and he dreamed of his grandson playing for Ghana. There was nothing left to think about then.” Sid Lowe discovers finds out what changed the mind of an initially reluctant Inaki Williams and convinced him to declare for Ghana, the country from which his parents hail and in which he was conceived.
Portugal’s manager speaks: “Winning a tournament like this is extremely difficult for any team, for any country,” said Fernando Santos. “You only need look at these first few games to see that clearly. I was watching the Croatia-Morocco game just now, and you see very even contests.
“That’s because most of the players are in the same leagues. Against Ghana, for instance, two or three of their players are adversaries of Bruno [Fernandes, who was sitting alongside him] in the same championship. They play for big teams and are used to the tactical issues at play. In the past you would see a difference, but nowadays you don’t, especially as all the coaches are of an extremely high level.
“We are prepared for opponents that will cause us a lot of problems. Ghana are a very well organised team. Their game against Switzerland showed that. African teams have a lot of talent, unpredictability, and are always improving tactically. Today they are much more complete teams.”
On the Ronaldo palaver: “Will it take away our focus?” he asked. “No, it won’t. I haven’t even heard the players talk about it at any time here, at training, during leisure time, when they’re playing games such as table football, not even Ronaldo himself. Maybe in their rooms they turn on the TV, they talk to their families, they do what they want.
“But what’s important is the total focus I see in my players and a fantastic spirit, very in tune with what they have to do, what our goals are, while at the same time aware of the difficulties that we will face because they have a realistic outlook.”
Ghana’s manager speaks: “We have quality and can compete,” said Otto Addo. “We have to be brave and self confident. We have seen in some of the upsets that little things decide the games and we expect it to be the same against Portugal.”
Asked if he thought the hoop-la surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure from Manchester United would have an effect on today’s game, Addo had this to say. "“I don’t know and to be honest I don’t care. This is not our problem and I don’t think it’s a big problem. Everybody wants to win and no matter what happens it’s a big stage a big game at the World Cup level. So I don’t think normally this can disrupt anybody.”
Today’s match officials
Referee: Ismail Elfath
Assistant Referees: Kyle Atkins and Corey Parker
Fourth Official: Stéphanie Frappart
Video Assistant Referee: Armando Villarreal
Early team news
Diogo Jota’s absence from the Portugal squad due to a calf injury means team manager
Cristiano Ronaldo Fernando Santos is likely to start Bernardo Silva and one of Joao Felix or Rafael Leao up front alongside His Lordship, while there are concerns over the fitness of PSG left-back Nuno Mendes.
Along with a backroom team that features Chris Hughton and George Boateng, Otto Addo is believed to have no injury concerns and will deal his starting XI from a full deck. He will be forced to choose an inexperienc ed goalkeeper after Charlton’s Jojo Wollacott and the South Africa-based Richard Ofori were ruled out of this World Cup through injury. Lawrence Ati-Zigi (2), Manaf Nurudeen (2) and Danlad Ibrahim (0), Ghana’s three goalkeepers in Qatar, have just four senior caps between them.
Group H: Portugal v Ghana
Built from shipping containers and other bits and bobs, the temporary arena that is Stadium 974 plays host to today’s Group H encounter between Portugal and Ghana. Much as he would like it, Cristiano Ronaldo has been dominating the headlines in the build-up to this game and will be under pressure to deliver in the wake of that interview with that man, an act of insubordation that resulted in him severing ties with Manchester United earlier this week. A massively self-regarding cog in a team brimful of talents that often seem cowed in his presence, it remains to be seen whether Ronaldo will be more help than hindrance as team embark on this World Cup campaign.
In Qatar on the back of a play-off win against Nigeria, Otto Addo’s Ghana come into this tournament on the back of friendly wins over Nicuragua and Switzerland, which came in the wake of a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Brazil. There is a suggestion that Addo doesn’t know his best side, but received a boost in September when Brighton right-back Tariq Lamptey, who qualifies for the Black Stars through his father, decided to declare for Ghana.
Lamptey joins his fellow Premier League players Mohammad Salisu (Southampton), Daniel Amartey (Leicester City) and Thomas Partey (Arsenal) and Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace) in the Ghana squad. Like Lamptey, Athletic Bilbao’s Inaki Williams also declared for Ghana in recent months at the behest of his grandad and various Ghanaian officials. The striker’s parents crossed the Sahara in search of a new life in Spain when “Kweku” was still in his mother’s womb. Interestingly, Inaki’s younger brother Nico came on as a sub for Spain in their demolition of Costa Rica yesterday.
Anyway, enough introductory chat – kick-off in Doha is at 4pm (GMT) but stay tuned in the meantime for team news and build-up.