Ronaldo seizes his moment yet again
Two days on from his mutually agreed departure from Manchester United, Cristiano Ronaldo exhibited each the strengths and shortcomings which have come to typify his recreation at 37 as Portugal claimed an exciting 3-2 win over Ghana.
Of course, he scored. His opener, emphatically transformed from the penalty spot after he was fouled by Mohammed Salisu, confirmed as soon as again his extraordinary means, even at this late stage of his storied profession, to bend the narrative to his will.
It made him the primary male participant to attain at 5 completely different World Cups, one other piece of historical past to quieten his latest critics and a feat which sums up his exceptional longevity as he chases the one trophy that has up to now eluded him.
But whereas he stays a talismanic determine for his nation, their captain and an undisputed starter in Fernando Santos’ workforce, there was proof, too, of why he had misplaced that standing at Manchester United.
First, there was the identical uncharacteristic wastefulness in entrance of objective as seen within the first half of the home season, throughout which he solely scored 3 times in 16 video games for Erik ten Hag’s aspect.
In the tenth minute, a heavy contact noticed him spurn a one-on-one probability up towards Ghana goalkeeper Lawrence Ati-Zigi. Soon after that, a botched header from Raphael Guerreiro’s cross drifted extensive.
Ronaldo spent the remainder of the sport ready for service, hovering round Ghana’s line of defense and not often involving himself in Portugal’s method play as they tried, usually fruitlessly, to discover a means by means of.
By the tip, he had had fewer touches (33) and accomplished fewer passes (15) than another starter. But, crucially, he had additionally scored the objective which set Portugal on their strategy to victory. Ronaldo, for all his limitations at 37, stays the person for the largest events.
Brazil finally arrive at the World Cup – and look like major contenders
We needed to wait till the ultimate recreation of the primary spherical of matches to see them in motion. And then we needed to wait one other hour or so earlier than we noticed Brazil actually click on into gear.
But the 5-time champions have arrived now and look set to be main contenders at this World Cup.
Through the ultimate half-hour they performed with talent and swagger. Vinicius Junior was wonderful all through and deservedly completed with a few assists to his title, however it was Richarlison’s gorgeous second, after his poached first, which appeared to encourage his workforce-mates in that ultimate interval of the sport.
This is how we count on Brazil to play at World Cups.
From the bench, Tite displayed the array of attacking choices at his disposal with Rodrygo particularly wanting an actual menace, whereas Premier League observers wouldn’t have been stunned to see Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli instantly inflicting issues.
Behind them, Casemiro was imperious, whereas in defence Thiago Silva – the oldest participant ever to symbolize his nation at a World Cup – used all his expertise to marshal the backline. Occasionally Serbia threatened however Alisson didn’t have a save to make.
This was not a simple opener. But by means of perseverance and then panache Brazil confirmed their strengths.
Neymar’s knock can be a fear however the true concern can be felt by Brazil’s title rivals. This workforce are going to take some stopping.
Serbia need players fit to bounce back
Serbia have been talked up as darkish horses for this World Cup however maybe 98 minutes towards Brazil was not the most effective measure of their potential. They have been organised for an hour, stifling the South American aspect, however as soon as chasing the sport they have been overwhelmed.
In convincing wins over Norway and Sweden in September, head coach Dragan Stojkovic went with Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic in tandem up high. That is trickier for him to do towards the most effective groups on the planet. With Vlahovic, the menace is decreased.
The Serbia boss was clearly annoyed that he couldn’t use Juventus winger Filip Kostic, whereas Mitrovic isn’t totally match both. “It would be a completely different story if they were. They are not ready, that’s the way it is. We have a lot of injuries at the wrong time.”
Kostic is within the squad, at the least, and Mitrovic managed to play 83 minutes. There will nonetheless be hope that Serbia can develop into the event however they discover themselves in a battle towards time as properly as the opposition. With their greatest gamers match, they’ll compete.
Stojkovic was a wonderful playmaker in his pomp so it’s going to have given him no nice pleasure in setting as much as cease the opposition. Perhaps the more true check of Serbia’s capabilities will come on Monday afternoon towards Cameroon. They might want to present extra.
Switzerland: Beware the wise old owl
It is expensive knowledge that’s purchased by expertise, and expertise counts for a lot at tournaments like this one. The Swiss are like a smart previous owl. And within the theme of the famed nursery rhyme, they communicate little however absorb and possess a lot information. You might see that have stamped throughout their cool and calm efficiency towards Cameroon.
The common age of Switzerland’s beginning XI for his or her win over Cameroon was 28 years and 238 days. There was no panic even regardless of Cameroon’s quick begin and they slowly grabbed management of the sport when Cameroon ran out of puff and concepts.
They gave little away and at all times knew a moment or two would come their means once they unleashed their artistic gamers into area. Granit Xhaka embodied a lot of this argument, enjoying with such assurance and high quality within the coronary heart of the midfield. Bigger assessments than this are on the horizon however knocking this Switzerland aspect out of this event will show a problem. Beware the smart previous owl.
Enigmatic Kudus embodies Ghana’s topsy-turvy display
The efficiency of Ajax’s Mohammed Kudus in some methods encapsulated Ghana’s show as they opened their Group H marketing campaign on the World Cup with a good 3-2 defeat to Portugal.
Set up in a 5-3-2, the African aspect camped inside their very own half for the primary hour in Doha, conceding the vast majority of possession to their European counterparts and not often threatening Diogo Costa’s objective.
Ghana’s defensive method meant Portugal struggled to interrupt them down, however they have been nonetheless capable of create probabilities due to some questionable play by Kudus, who was twice caught in possession deep in his personal half.
Kudus, lining up as one of many three midfielders, was then introduced with a uncommon probability to launch a Ghana assault however, below little strain, failed to pick Inaki Williams’ run behind the Portugal defence and as an alternative sliced a move straight to his opponents.
Kudus, like the remainder of his workforce-mates, was missing a spark. But it was offered within the wake of Ronaldo’s penalty, which opened the scoring for Portugal and instantly noticed the 22-yr-previous moved right into a extra superior place by Ghana boss Otto Addo.
The transfer paid dividends, with Kudus twice coming near equalising from vary earlier than establishing Andre Ayew’s equaliser with a driving run to the byline and a wise cross that picked out his captain.
Suddenly Kudus was enjoying with extra power, freedom and dedication – all traits that embodied Ghana’s show for the ultimate 25 minutes.
Ghana could have come up brief ultimately, with their extra expansive method late within the recreation offering the area for Portugal to attain twice extra, however they rattled their opponents and would have taken some extent had Williams not slipped at simply the improper moment after dispossessing Costa within the ultimate seconds.
Kudus’ dreadful show for the primary hour was curious, given he has shone within the Champions League this season, scoring dwelling and away towards Rangers and netting towards Liverpool and Napoli.
But the standard that introduced him these objectives on the largest stage in European membership soccer was evident within the latter levels towards Portugal – and will have to be on present towards South Korea on Monday if Ghana are to haul themselves off the underside of Group H and into the final 16.