Ronaldo is also taking his time
Two days after agreeing to leave Manchester United, Cristiano Ronaldo showed the strengths and weaknesses that have characterized his game at the age of 37 as Portugal won 3-2 against Ghana.
Yes, he scored. His opener, who was strongly converted from the penalty spot after being fouled by Mohammed Salisu, also showed his amazing ability, even at the end of his illustrious career, to turn the issue to his will.
It made him the first male player to win five World Cups, another record that calmed his recent critics and explains his longevity as he chases a championship that has so far eluded him.
But even if he remains the talisman of his country, their captain and the founder of the team Fernando Santos, there was evidence, too, why he lost his role at Manchester United.
Firstly, there was a similar lack of goal-scoring as seen in the first half of the domestic season, where he scored just three times in 16 games for Erik ten Hag.
In the 10th minute, a great touch saw him lose a one-on-one opportunity against Ghanaian midfielder Lawrence Ati-Zigi. Immediately after that, a poor header from Raphael Guerreiro’s cross went wide.
Ronaldo spent the rest of the game waiting for work, hovering around the Ghanaian defense and did not get involved in Portugal’s game as he tried, often to no avail, to find a way.
In the end, he had fewer touchdowns (33) and completed fewer runs (15) than any other starter. But, more importantly, he also scored the goal that put Portugal on the way to victory. Ronaldo, for all his weaknesses at 37, remains a man on the biggest occasions.
Brazil finally make it to the World Cup – and look like contenders
We had to wait until the last game of the first season to see it in action. Then we had to wait another hour or so before we got to see Brazil hit it big.
But the five-time champions have now arrived and look to be in contention for this World Cup.
In the last 30 minutes they played with skill and passion. Vinicius Junior was excellent throughout and deservedly finished with a couple of assists to his name, but it was Richarlison’s stunning second, after his first dismissal, that seemed to inspire his team-mates in the final moments of the game.
This is how we expect Brazil to play at the World Cups.
From the bench, Tite showed a number of attacking options at his disposal with Rodrygo in particular looking dangerous, while Premier League watchers would not have been surprised to see Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli causing problems at the same time.
At the back, Casemiro was tough, while in defense Thiago Silva – the oldest player to represent his country at a World Cup – used his experience to control the backline. At times Serbia threatened but Alisson had nothing to spare.
This was not easy to open. But through persistence and then panache Brazil showed their strength.
Neymar’s knock will be a concern but the real concern will be felt by Brazil’s rivals. The team will stop for a moment.
Serbia needs players who are fit to return
Serbia have been talked about as the dark horses of this World Cup but perhaps the 98th minute against Brazil was not the best way to watch it. They were organized for an hour, thwarting the South American side, but after chasing the game they were overwhelmed.
In the wins against Norway and Sweden in September, head coach Dragan Stojkovic went with Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic respectively. This is very difficult for them to do against the best teams in the world. With Vlahovic, the risk has been reduced.
The Serbian boss was disappointed that he could not use Juventus winger Filip Kostic, while Mitrovic is not fit. “It would have been a completely different story if he had. He’s not ready, that’s what it is. We’ve got a lot of injuries at the wrong time.”
Kostic is in the squad, at least, and Mitrovic managed to play in the 83rd minute. There will still be hope that Serbia can grow in this tournament but they find themselves in a battle against time and opposition. With their best players, they can compete.
Stojkovic was a glorious player in his own right so it would not have given him much pleasure to set up to stop the opposition. Perhaps Serbia’s strongest test will come on Monday afternoon against Cameroon. They have to show more.
Switzerland: Beware of the wise old owl
It is valuable wisdom that is bought with experience, and experience counts for a lot in competitions like this. The Swiss are like a wise old owl. And in the theme of the famous nursery rhyme, he speaks little but takes in a lot of knowledge. You can see what happened in their good and calm game against Cameroon.
The average age of Switzerland’s starting XI in their win over Cameroon was 28 years and 238 days. There was no panic though as Cameroon started quickly and gradually took control of the game as Cameroon ran out of ideas.
They gave a little and always knew that a minute or two would come when they unleashed their space-creating players. Granit Xhaka has joined the fray, playing with assurance and quality in midfield. Bigger tests are on the horizon but getting this Swiss side out of the competition will be difficult. Beware of the wise old owl.
Enigmatic Kudus represents the topsy-turvy Ghanaian scene
Ajax’s Mohammed Kudus’ performance in some ways affected Ghana’s display as they opened their World Cup Group H campaign with a hard-fought 3-2 defeat by Portugal.
Set up in 5-3-2, the African side camped inside their own half for the first hour in Doha, conceding many possessions to their European counterparts and not threatening Diogo Costa’s goal.
Ghana’s defensive style meant Portugal struggled to break them down, but they were able to create chances thanks to the questionable play of Kudus, who was twice caught inside.
Kudus, who was one of three central midfielders, was given a rare opportunity to start Ghana’s attack but, under little pressure, failed to pick out Inaki Williams running behind Portugal’s defense and instead skipped past his opponents. .
Kudus, like the rest of his friends, was powerless. But it was conceded thanks to Ronaldo’s penalty, which opened the scoring for Portugal and immediately saw the 22-year-old progress further with Ghana boss Otto Addo.
The move paid off, with Kudus twice coming close to equalizing from a range of positions before setting up Andre Ayew with a speedy run to the line and a clever cross that picked out his captain.
Suddenly Kudus was playing with energy, freedom and determination – all qualities that characterized Ghana for the last 25 minutes.
Ghana may have been close at the end, with their dominant approach towards the end of the game, which gave Portugal the chance to score twice, but they confused their opponents and would have taken a point had Williams not fallen at the wrong time later on. robbing Costa in the final seconds.
Kudus’ poor display for the first hour was a curious one, as he has been impressive in the Champions League this season, scoring at home and away to Rangers and striking against Liverpool and Napoli.
But what made him achieve his goals at Europe’s biggest club was on display in the final against Portugal – and he will need to be on display against South Korea on Monday if Ghana are to get out of Group H and into the last 16.