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World Cup 2014
 

Portugal 2 Ghana 1: Highlights, key battles and what the result means

Published on Jun 27, 2014 2:38 AM
 
Portugal's forward and captain Cristiano Ronaldo plays the ball during the Group G football match between Portugal and Ghana at the Mane Garrincha National Stadium in Brasilia during the 2014 Fifa World Cup on June 26, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

On any other day, Cristiano Ronaldo would have walked away with five goals and Portugal would be enjoying an extended run at the World Cup.

Instead, the world's best footballer was struck by a rare case of profligacy in front of goal, even as his late winner earned his country a 2-1 win over Ghana. It was three goals too little for the Real Madrid superstar, whose side lost out on second spot in Group G by goal difference to the United States.

Shots that sailed inches wide of the goal and saves that drew gasps from the crowd meant the Portuguese crashed out at the group phase for the first time since 2002.

Highlights

- Ronaldo could easily have had a hat-trick in the first half alone. In an apparent attempt at the tournament's best goal award, his audacious effort from deep on the right flank struck the crossbar, followed by a header from six yards that drew a stunning reflex stop from Ghana goalkeeper Fatau Dauda.

- CR7's trademark rasping free-kick was later parried away by Dauda again, before two flicks on the back of incisive runs each creeped agonisingly past the post.

- Ghana's No. 1 was beaten by his own man when defender John Boye inexplicably sliced Miguel Veloso's cross into his own goal.

- Captain Asamoah Gyan responded for the Black Stars as he knew best, nodding home Kwadwo Asamoah's cheeky outside-of-the-foot pass.

- Ronaldo's only souvenir from a traumatic Brazil trip was picked up in the 80th minute. With perhaps his only mistake of the game, Dauda punched an innocuous looping cross right into the path of the FIFA World Player of the Year. Already angered by his earlier misses, the 29-year-old powered home with his left foot and turned to dash back to the centre-circle without a hint of celebration.

Key battle

Cristiano Ronaldo vs Ghana defence

It takes more than one man to stop the Portugal phenomenon. In this case, even the joint efforts of Harrison Afful, John Mensah and Boye could not deter Ronaldo from carving out scoring opportunities with ease.

Luckily for them, this was a rare night off for the Madrid machine. It speaks volumes of the standards he has set when being the match-winner in a World Cup fixture will be viewed as an average performance.

Man of the Match

Joao Moutinho

While the headlines - classy and controversial alike - will surround Ronaldo, Portugal playmaker Moutinho quietly put on a midfield masterclass. Closely stalked by three Ghanaians, the Monaco player had the poise and vision to stroke a defence-splitting pass for Veloso that led to the opening goal.

The 27-year-old also deserves credit for continuing to find ways to work with Nani, whose crossing was yet again as poor as his haircut. Moutinho's true potential will come to the fore when he is surrounded by more high-calibre players.

What the result means

Simple: the summer holidays have begun for both teams. Ghana's campaign ended in a farce as key midfielders Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng were kicked out of the squad for indiscipline. The players had also reportedly refused to train until their appearance money - totalling US$3 million - was flown in by private jet by the Ghanaian government.

Ronaldo has perhaps wasted his last good shot at football's biggest prize. As he himself noted, Portugal's supporting cast has not been good enough, lacking the talent, depth and conviction to back up one of the greatest players to have ever played the game.

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