Portugal outscores Ghana 3-2 in frantic final half-hour
Portugal got goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, Joao Felix and Rafael Leao and hung on for dear life and a 3-2 victory vs Ghana in the sides’ 2022 World Cup opener at Stadium 974 in Doha, Qatar on Thursday.
The game was scoreless past the hour mark, before it roared to life with five goals in 24 minutes.
Ronaldo earned and converted the penalty kick for the opener in the 65th minute, becoming the first male player to ever score a goal at five different World Cups (2006, 2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022). Ghana didn’t take their first shot of the game until the 53rd minute, but the Black Stars came to life after going a goal down as they pulled level through Andre Ayew in the 73rd.
Portugal’s response came fast and in quick succession, with Joao Felix slotting home Bruno Fernandes’ brilliant ball in the 78th minute and Rafael Leao doing much the same two minutes later, only three minutes after coming off the bench.
The victory puts Portugal top of Group H following the scoreless draw between Uruguay and South Korea earlier on Thursday.
Slow start, frantic finish in much-needed World Cup thriller
Portugal and Ghana are each incredibly strong in central midfield, but for an hour it was quite difficult to see, for the congestion surrounding all that quality. Ghana set up with a back-three/-five to start the game, and Portugal a flat back-four, but both sides went with three in central midfield — for very different reasons.
Ghana packed the middle of the park as a roadblock against the likes of Bernardo Silva, Ruben Neves and Otavio for Portugal. For most of the game, it resulted in a stalemate and precious few scoring chances for either side. Ronaldo’s goal changed things, though, bringing Ghana out of their shell and forcing them to take chances.
One could argue (rather easily) that Portugal boss Fernando Santos blindly (or willingly) played into Ghana’s hands for much of the game and made things much more difficult for his side by doing so, but that is neither here nor there.
How to watch Portugal vs Ghana live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 11am ET - Thursday, November 24Stadium: Stadium 974, DohaTV channels en Español: TelemundoStreaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)
Key storylines, players to watch closely
Portugal have so many incredible midfield and attacking talents that they should go deep in this tournament. Ronaldo is the main man up top but Bruno Fernandes, Joao Felix, Rafael Leao and Bernardo Silva will all be key. Add in the defensive class of Ruben Dias, Joao Cancelo and the resurgent Diogo Dalot and this is a team stacked with talent. In midfield the inclusion of Ruben Neves, Otavio and Joao Palhinha shows the incredible depth of the squad Fernando Santos has assembled. Anything less than the quarterfinals is a disappointment.
Ghana have plenty of recent additions to their ranks as Tariq Lamptey (Brighton), Mohammed Salisu (Southampton) and Inaki Williams (Athletic Bilbao) have all become regulars for the Black Stars. Jordan Ayew and Andre Ayew are a threat up top, while Arsenal midfielder Thomas Partey is in the heartbeat of this team. Watch out for forward Mohammed Kuddus, who is having a fine season at Ajax.
Portugal quick facts
Current FIFA world ranking: 9
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 8
How they qualified: Qualified from UEFA via playoffs
Coach: Fernando Santos
Key players: Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, Joao Cancelo
Ghana quick facts
Current FIFA world ranking: 61
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 4
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CAF via playoffs
Coach: Otto Addo
Key players: Jordan Ayew, Andre Ayew, Thomas Partey