Portugal 3 Ghana 2
Ronaldo takes centre stage
It was always destined to be the day that Cristiano Ronaldo took centre-stage at this World Cup but even football’s ultimate ringmaster could hardly have choreographed a more iconic image.
A celebratory ‘Siu’ in front of a beaming pitch-side image of his great rival Lionel Messi after he had just become the first man in history to score at five World Cups.
Never mind that the rest of the evening contained everything from tears during the national anthem, two bad misses, accusations of a “special gift” for his soft penalty and then seeing his team almost comically throw away a two-goal lead, it was an occasion that will still be remembered for this unique slice of football history.
“Cristiano is a phenomenon and a legend – in 50 years’ time we’ll still be talking about him,” said the Portugal manager Fernando Santos.
Bruno Fernandes even pointedly urged the media to maintain an intense scrutiny on his team-mate. “I think he likes to work under that criticism so I pray all of you keep doing that because he gets the best of himself when you do that,” he said.
Santos then declared that Ronaldo himself could explain what it all meant in the week that his contract had been terminated at Manchester United. And, sure enough, into the press conference room waltzed the now clubless Portugal captain.
He did try to talk about the team – “I’m very happy we got a good result” – but, Ronaldo being Ronaldo, there was also acute awareness of what he had personally just achieved. “This was a beautiful moment – my fifth World Cup,” he said. “To win the first match is crucial. But also a world record: The first player to score in five World Cups. That makes me proud.”
And what of the tumultuous past seven days at Old Trafford? “It was a week that finished this chapter,” he said. “This chapter is closed. The most important step was that we won. I could help my team. All the rest does not matter.”
And, with that, Ronaldo headed for the Portugal team bus and back to their hotel for a stay in Qatar that he clearly thinks could last right until the final almost four weeks away on Dec 19.
The deeper truth, however, was that it had actually been a decidedly mixed performance from both Ronaldo and Portugal.
Having arrived to a hero’s pre-match reception, including one fan banner that read, “Resigned my job to witness the GOAT’s last Dance”, Ronaldo had earlier missed two wonderful first-half chances.
The first contained an uncharacteristically heavy touch when he was one-on-one with Ghana goalkeeper Lawrence Ati-Zigi before he rose magnificently for a free header from inside the six-yard box only for the ball to squirm inexplicably off the side of his head. There was further irritation when, having shaken off a challenge from Alexander Djiku and finished clinically, referee Ismail Elfath penalised his physicality in the duel.
A frustrating evening loomed but then, just as some Portugal fans might have been weighing up whether Santos should try one of their younger strikers, came a game-changing contribution. Sprinting into the penalty area with only Mohammed Salisu for company, Ronaldo stabbed his toe at the ball before seeming to flick his foot towards the Ghana defender who had himself made almost simultaneous contact with the ball.
Ronaldo went down heavily. Elfath pointed straight to the spot and, with no Var intervention, Ronaldo got up to first kiss the ball and then emphatically add to the World Cup goals that he had scored in 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018.
The world was soon awash with outrage – BBC pundits Matthew Upson and Chris Sutton both suggested a dive while Ghana coach Otto Addo called it “a special gift”– but the wider significance of the achievement could not be lost in the controversy.
Most of the stadium seemed to join in this very special celebratory ‘Siu’ and, as well as his nine outfield team-mates on the pitch, Ronaldo was joined by most of the substitutes. Ghana opened up in search of a goal and what followed was a roller-coaster finale in which Andre Ayew equalised, Portugal sweep into a 3-1 lead with two fabulous counter-attacks before almost succumbing to a nervous meltdown by the final whistle.
Having been substituted after 88 minutes with the match seemingly safe, Ronaldo’s pitchside agony was reminiscent of the 2016 European Championship final when he was injured and spent most of the match frantically waving instructions at his team-mates.
If Ronaldo ever does go into coaching after finally ending his playing career, we can safely expect an Antonio Conte-esque touchline presence. As it is, love him or hate him, the records keep tumbling and we might as well enjoy the soap opera while it lasts.
Portugal 3 Ghana 2: as it happened
He is now Portugal's oldest as well as their youngest World Cup goalscorer and the first man to score at five World Cups.
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) November 24, 2022
Here's Inaki Williams's slip
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) November 24, 2022
Rate the players
Full-time Portugal 3 Ghana 2
A remarkable second half of five goals. Ghana were much improved by a more ambitious formation, pushing Kudus higher but couldn't get the equaliser at the death they are convinced they deserved.
Two fine finishes from Joao Felix and Rafael Leao won it for Portugal but Joao Cancelo had a horrorshow defensively and let Ghana in twice to score with crosses in from his side, having been beaten by pace, trickery and his own mistake.
Jeremy Wilson's verdict
A match that came to life after Ronaldo won a hugely controversial penalty. General disbelief in the press box after replays seemed to show Salisu getting to the ball first and the VAR not even recommending that the referee took a second look. Portugal then mixed erratic defending with some wonderful counter-attacks when Ghana lost possession but, after Fernando Santos had taken three of his best attacking players with his team leading at minute 88, the gamble nearly backfired spectacularly. Portugal will need to improve significantly if they are to win this tournament.
90+9 min: POR 3 GHA 2
Baba Rahman hares forward and arrows a deep cross that Diogo Costa picks off Williams' head.
But Costa forgets that Williams is behind him and the keeper puts the ball on the ground. Williams blindsides him 12 yards out, steals the ball and pirouettes to tap it in but slips before he can grab the equaliser.
90+8 min: POR 3 GHA 2
Bukari scares the pants off Diogo Costa with a dipping shot from 25 yards that whistles over the angle of post and cross-bar.
90+7 min: POR 3 GHA 2
Amartey shoves over the substitute Ramos down by Ghana's right corner flag as Portugal try to kill the game. Bruno Fernandes takes and wheels it straight down Zigi's throat, giving them another chance to attack.
90+5 min: POR 3 GHA 2
Diogo Costa comes out and flaps at a clearance when the ball bounces higher than he expected outside the area, forcing Bruno Fernandes to take a booking as he dealt with the garbage pass.
90+3 min: POR 3 GHA 2
Lamptey has tream-mates well-placed in the box and one down the line but goes for a tough crossfield drive that is intercepted.
90+1 min: POR 3 GHA 2
Inaki Williams is booked, helped by Danilo making a meal of it.
90 min: POR 3 GHA 2
We'll have nine minutes of stoppage time.
Portugal 3 Ghana 2 (Bukari) Baba Rahman roasts Cancelo who has had a poor game. The left-back cuts back on to his right to cross and floats it perfectly for the substitute Bukari to meet at the apex of his leap and thunder unstoppably past Diogo Costa.
87 min: POR 3 GHA 1
Ronaldo is being substituted, moments after he was sent through one-on-one with Ati-Ziga and his chip was blocked. But he was offside anyway.
We're having a couple of technical issues. Hopefully sorted now.
85 min: POR 3 GHA 1
Andre Ayew was being congratulated on the bench for his equaliser and was mid-hug when Joao Felix scored. When Leao extended the lead, his water bottle took some savage punishment.
83 min: POR 3 GHA 1
Joao Felix is down with a blow to the face which wasn't as severe as he is making it out to be.
Portugal 3 Ghana 1 (Leao) Fantastic goal. He started his run and rode the block, waiting for the release from Bruno Fernandes who has dribbled 20 yards and lays it off perfectly for the side-foot finish.
Portugal 2 Ghana 1 (Joao Felix) Bad error from Baba Rahaman who gets his feet in a tangle and fails to cut out a pass that was far ccloser to him than its intended recipient. Felix latches on to his mistake and the ball, bounds into the box, shimmies, Ati-Zigi comes out too far. Joao Felix sits the keeper down and finishes with a fine dink.
75 min: POR 1 GHA 1
That's the first goal by an African side at the World Cup. Double Ghana substitution: Jordan Ayew and Osman Bakari replace Andre Ayew and Kudus. Lamptey had already come on for Seidu.
Neves is going off. On, at last, comes Leao.
Portugal 1 Ghana 1 (Ayew) Made by Kudus with a burst down the left to the byline. He has been so much better since being pushed further forward. He beats Joao Cancelo, and spears a cross through Danilo's legs for his captain to tap in from five yards.
71 min: POR 1 GHA 0
Kudus unleashes a left-foot half-volley, absolutely spanking it from 25 yards but straight at Diogo Costa, after a lovely turn from Partey.
68 min: POR 1 GHA 0
Partey takes the ball down the right side of the field and decides to have a shot when Carvalho backs off, blazing over.
66 min: POR 1 GHA 0
Maybe Salisu's foot brushed Ronaldo's studs before he got to the ball. Looked a dodgy one ... will revise that to soft.
Portugal 1 Ghana 0 (Ronaldo, pen) Top left corner. Buries it. He becomes the first man to score at five World Cups.
Portugal 1 Ghana 0 (Ronaldo, pen)
Var is looking at it. Looked like Salisu got the ball before Ronaldo who went down like the proverbial sack of spuds.
No intervention. Looked a dodgy one to me.
62 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Osman Bakari, the Red Star Belgrade winger, and Tariq Lamptey, the Brighton right-back, are getting ready to come on.
60 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Rubbish pass from Cancelo and another from Bernardo Silva ruin promising attacks.
58 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Seidu is booked after being penalised when Joao Felix actually knees him in a collision. Joao Felix puts his forehead on Seidu's who pushes back and his head hits him on the nose. The referee takes no further action after a final warning. No doubt Joao Felix provoked it.
Ally McCoist says perhaps he didn't issue the second yellow card because he had realised the first one was a mistake.
55 min: POR 0 GHA 0
William Carvalho replaces Otavio for Portugal.
55 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Kudus takes the ball on from a rebound after Ronaldo was smothered on the left of the Ghana box, given no room to get a shot on goal, hitting it straight into Djiku who is all over him like a rash. When the ball breaks into midfield Kudus takes it on and the Ajax winger bombs through the inisde-left and hammers a low left-foot shot across goal and wide of the right post. Baba Rahman was on for the pass but he took it on himself and came close.
53 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Kudus is playing higher up the left now and has the beating of Joao Cancelo, earning a corner from which he tries to pick out Salisu by the penalty spot with a flat, hard cross. Danilo gets there first.
51 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Good work initially from Seidu to burn past Guerreiro but then sends his cross 10 yards too deep. Baba Rahman has to make up a ton of ground to get there and when he does, Portugal are all over him.
48 min: POR 0 GHA 0
A very slow start to the half until Ayew kicks Otavio across the calves and goes into the book. The Ghana captain has hurt himself more doing that at full stretch than the man he wellied.
46 min: POR 0 GHA 0
No changes. 'Rafael Leao is the solution to Portugal's woes' is the consensus among the pundits and Souness thinks they need a dribbler.
Jeremy Wilson reports from Stadium 974
Ghana players went into a half-time huddle rather than making their way straight down the tunnel. A signal, very much, of the sense of a job well done in that first-half where, for all Portugal's dominance of possession (70%), Ghana's backline of five defenders restricted the chances reasonably well.
Portugal's best two opportunities fell to Ronaldo, who overran possession when he was set clear on goal, and then missed an even better headed chance after rising high above the Portugal defence.
The goalless draws are already mounting in this tournament, but Ghana will do well to maintain this much pressure for another 45 minutes.
He restoreth his soul
Half-time: POR 0 GHA 0
Portugal have squandered a couple of decent chances and have had a goal disallowed for a foul. They have been the better side but not dominant. Ronaldo may be rusty but he does come alive in the box. Ghana, playing on the break, need to pass with more poise and precision on their rare incursions if they are to pull off a successful rope-a-dope victory.
45 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Kudus is booked for catching Joao Cancelo with a high leg. The City full-back hams it up somewhat with a squeal that the contact didn't really merit, unless he has a preposterously low pain threshold.
44 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Two glimmers for Portugal, Ronaldo thumping a shot from 15 yards after a one-two, into a thicket of white-socked shins. Then, when the ball is delivered back to the far post from the right Guerreiro's shot from a very tight angle is blocked by Ronaldo who had turned his back on it. Had he been as a alert as Ally McCoist hoped, he may have been able to get it out from under his feet and poke it in himself.
42 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Ghana have had a couple of opportunities but they never release the ball early enough. This time Partey is crying out loud for a quick pass beyond Dias but Baba Rahman doubles back.
40 min: POR 0 GHA 0
The Ghanaian trumpets and drums have been the best thing about this match so far.
38 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Ghana have their first corner after a thrust up the right by Alidu Seidu. Kudus' first cross is headed back towards him from the near post. His second, a vicious, dipping inswinger is judiciously turned behind by Bruno Fernandes.
Ronaldo heads the second corner away from danger and Ghana are penalised for a foul on Danilo.
36 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Otavio is found in space to the left of the D by Bruno Fernandes. He has the time to spin and get off a right-foot shot but scuffs it and Ait-Zigi gobbles it up.
34 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Kudus, who has been struggling in a central midfield role, does well to dispossess Neves and spark a counter-attack which quickly runs out of steam.
32 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Ronaldo spears a shot past Ati-Zigi and into the goal, rolling the defender by digging his elbow into him. The referee immediately blows his whistle to curtail the celebration. Portugal protest ... but in vain.
30 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Abdul Samed, a proper defensive midfielder whose heat map would look like a massive yellow blob in a rectangle the width of the box from the D to the centre-circle, is penalised for a foul.
28 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Bernardo Silva plays a gorgeous pass to Joao Felix after good work from Joao Cancelo pushing on down the right. Joao Felix hits it first time, sweeping it with his left instep, high, wide and pug-ugly.
26 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Ianki Williams is penalised for fouling Danilo as they both went up for a header by the centre-circle.
24 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Otavio tries to pick out Bruno Fernandes' canny inside-left run with Ronaldo pushing the defence back deep on the right side of the box. Too much club on the pass, though, and it skips away from the Manchester United man ... BF, that is. Only one of them now,
22 min: POR 0 GHA 0
A chance to put Kudus in through the middle is spurned. Portugal's offside trap looks rusty. This is the only stadium without aircon which may account for the rather torpid start. Ayew shields the ball and buys a free-kick just inside his own half off Neves.
We have a new gizmo. You be the judge. Mark the players out of 10.
19 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Alidu Seidu trips Guerreiro on the Portugal left just inside the Ghana half. Lots of chat from Messrs Champion and McCoist about you know who. What I would say is that it's not just the chances he has failed to take. A couple of touches and passes have gone astray too.
17 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Baba Rahman has a chance to slide Partey in through the inside left channel, beating the offside entrapment scheme triggered by Danilo. But he overhits the pass and Diogo Costa comes out to gather.
15 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Two chances in two minutes for Ronaldo. Ghana look very vulnerable to one-touch, give and go moves down the sides. But they are battling hard.
13 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Blimey. You'd have put your house on Ronaldo at the back post from the short corner routine. Guerreiro stands it up. Ronaldo rises as only he can, his slam dunk leap taking him above Salsu and Baba Rahman but he bludgeons his header a good half a metre wide.
11 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Big chance for Ronaldo after another mistake from Kudus. The ball from Djiku is fired into his feet 35 yards out on the left of centre but he can't control it and instead it kind of rebounds off him back through the D. Ronaldo pounces, sprinting to try to get a toe on it but Ati-Zigi races off his line and gets there first to make a very brave blocking save.
9 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Kudus, the Ajax forward, gets free down the right, gives Guerreiro the slip, but his cross bobbles harmlessly into Diogo Costa's arms.
7 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Kudus, a forward playing in midfield, loses the ball sloppily but his team-mates bail him out. Not much space between the lines so far for Portugal to exploit. Tactical discipline holds so far. Ghana, after all, are the lowest ranked team in Qatar.
5 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Otavio meets the corner but makes a mess of his connection.
4 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Guerreiro, the Dortmund flyer, stretches his legs down the left and beats Alidu Seidu in the race but the full-back gets a touch on the cross and sends it out for a corner.
3 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Very quiet start. Very little noise from the stands and Ghana are letting Portugal have the ball deep. AYew is playing up top with Inaki Williams, more 3-5-2 than 5-4-1 so far.
2 min: POR 0 GHA 0
First touch for Ronaldo is a poor one, failing to trap the ball on the right and committing a foul to get himself out of jail.
1 min: POR 0 GHA 0
Portugal kick-off, wearing their home kit of red and green. Ghana are in all white. Portugal play it back to Ruben Dias and pass it across the back four, this way and that, as Ghana hold off with the press, Ayew, leading in the centre.
Play the predictor
How do you think this one will end?
Out come the teams
Ronaldo, rolling his tongue, leads out Portugal.
Time for the national anthems. Ghana's is a banger.
Jeremy Wilson's pre-match thoughts
Have spent a fair bit of time at Portugal's training base this week which is in a relatively remote location about 30km outside of Doha. Very clear sense that they are here to win – not just tonight – but the whole tournament. A real feeling that the squad is better than at Euro 2016, which they won, and they can surpass previous best World Cup performance of third in 1966 when they were of course beaten in the semi-finals by England.
Jeremy Wilson reports from Stadium 974
No sign of any issue between Ronaldo and the Portugal fans following suggestions his club situation may damage World Cup chances. Big ovation as he emerges for the warm-up ahead of Ghana game - trying to become first player to score in five World Cups.
Suspect Ronaldo's ego may also rather have enjoyed the stadium announcer trying to get the stadium to indulge in a series of "Siiuu's" after a quick run through all his records. Ronaldo outwardly unmoved and v focused on his preparations...
Graeme Souness has also spoken to Hughton
And reports that they will line up in a 5-4-1 with Andre Ayew tucked in on the left of midfield. He denies that they will play negatively with that line up but, of course, the first aim is to keep it tight.
ITV is talking to Chris Hughton
A socialist football manager and superb Spurs left-back whose father was Ghanaian and is now acting as technical director.
The starting position is we are here. We are in a tough group, No one will fault this group of players for their effort. It will mean everything to the African countries to perform well. We've seen the unfancied teams pull off results so far in the tournament. We won't be overawed.
Jim White reports from outside Stadium 974
Who'd have thought it?
Here is a pic of a dhow race going on in the bay just along from where the Portugal v Ghana game is taking place. Each sail is decorated in the colours of the World Cup teams. Oddly Qatar appears to be in the lead with Saudi second.
Those windows could do with a wash.
Portugal could switch between a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-3 with Otavio on the right of Ronaldo and Joao Felix on the left with Bruno Fernandes joining Ruben Neves and Bernardo. Ghana look like they're playing five at the back with Clermont's Seidu and Reading's Baba Rahman as wing-backs.
Ronaldo starts for Portugal
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.
By Dan Zeqiri
Cristiano Ronaldo kicks-off a fifth World Cup campaign with Portugal as a free agent following his Manchester United contract termination. Hopefully he can catch the eye of a scout or two. The word on the grapevine is he might have a chance of making it, although they say he has an abysmal taste in interviewers.
Portugal are in a tricky group alongside Uruguay, South Korea and this afternoon's opponents Ghana, who were denied at South Africa 2010 by that infamous Luis Suarez handball.
There is a feeling that Portugal have gone a little stale under manager Fernando Santos, with whom they won Euro 2016, but they have one of the most lavishly talented squads in the competition. Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva will pull the strings, Rafael Leao offers blistering speed on the wing and Ronaldo and Joao Felix are other star attackers. Manchester City pair Ruben Dias and Joao Cancelo will be mainstays in the back four.
"The environment in the changing room is excellent. No problems," five-times Ballon D'Or winner Ronaldo said on Monday. "The group is shielded. And I take this opportunity to say: stop asking about me."
Much will revolve around Thomas Partey for Ghana, who signed off the first period of the Premier League season in imperious form with Arsenal. How his body stands up to three days in just over a week could be crucial. Ajax forward Mohammed Kudus is primed to be their next star player, comparing himself to Neymar in an interview with the Guardian this morning. Coach Otto Addo, Ghana's third manager in 12 months, has sought to rebuild the team after a disastrous showing at the Cup of Nations in early 2022, bringing in more European-born players such as Brighton & Hove Albion wingback Tariq Lamptey.
Full team news on the way shortly.