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Winners & Losers

Ronaldo is inevitable! Winners, losers and ratings as Portugal superstar and Joao Felix silence critics in Ghana win

20:51 SAST 2022/11/24
Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal 2022
The Portugal captain won and scored a penalty before fellow forward Joao Felix came to the fore in a vital 3-2 victory over Ghana in Doha.

Cristiano Ronaldo is inevitable. After all of the controversy, and all of the criticism, the Portugal captain responded in the best possible fashion, by helping his country kick off their World Cup campaign with a 3-2 win over Ghana on Thursday.

Ronaldo, whose acrimonious Manchester United exit was confirmed on Tuesday, sparked a previously poor game into life by both winning and converting a penalty.

It never should have been given, of course, with the Seleccao skipper collapsing to the ground after the most minimal of touches from Mohammed Salisu.

Not that he cared, of course. Ronaldo wanted only to score, and he did so emphatically to become the first man to find the back of the net in five World Cup finals.

Credit to Ghana, though, they did their best to ruin his evening, with Andre Ayew sparking wild celebrations among the little pocket of Ghana fans behind one of the goals.

However, Joao Felix then took over, putting Portugal back in front with a fine finish before then stealing the ball in the build-up to the Rafael Leao goal that made it 3-1.

Ghana refused to give in and Osman Bukari set up a tense finish as a substituted Ronaldo looked on nervously.

But Portugal held on to claim three precious points on another historic night for their captain.

GOAL runs through all of the winners and losers from Stadium 974 in Doha...

  • Cristiano Ronaldo Joao Felix Portugal 2022

    The Winners

    Cristiano Ronaldo:

    You just knew he was going to score. It's just what Ronaldo does, particularly when he finds himself under fire. He always responds in the best possible fashion, by doing what he does best: scoring goals. It looked like it might prove a frustrating night for Ronaldo – he blew a one-on-one during the first half – but he cleverly won a penalty in the 65th minute, and there was never any doubt that he would convert it. This wasn't a vintage display from the 37-year-old but he has opened his account at Qatar 2022, as he looks to land the one major prize missing from his stellar CV, and attract a new employer in the process.

    Joao Felix:

    The inclusion of Joao Felix in the Portugal starting line-up raised eyebrows among some Seleccao supporters. They wanted Rafael Leao to start, and the in-form AC Milan attacker showed precisely why by netting just seconds after his introduction. However, Felix justified Fernando Santos' selection in sensational style. He may have only netted three times during the first half of the Liga season but he certainly didn't look like a player low on confidence as he dinked home Portugal's second goal, while he played a pivotal role in the killer third by releasing Bruno Fernandes after winning the ball in midfield. Felix's spell at Atletico Madrid has been nothing short of a disaster and he may well depart during the January transfer window. But he won't be short on offers if he maintains this form in Qatar.

    Ghana's brass band:

    We may not have got any decent football during a dreadful first half but we were, at least, treated to a cracking concert. Ghana's brass band never let up for a single second of the opening 45 minutes, and they were ably supported their fellow fans, who never stopped singing and dancing. Seriously, if it hadn't been for the Black Stars' supporters, and the spectacular show they put on, everyone else might have nodded off before some on-field excitement finally arrived after the interval.

  • Inaki Williams Ghana 2022

    The Losers

    Inaki Williams:

    The Athletic Club attacker was so close to scoring one of the most ingenious goals the World Cup has ever seen. With just seconds of the game remaining, Williams waited behind the goal as Diogo Costa prepared to launch the ball upfield. When the Portugal goalkeeper threw the ball to the ground, Williams charged forward and nicked it away from Costa. Unfortunately, the forward slipped as he went to shoot and Danilo Pereira was able to clear. It was so cruel on Williams, and indeed Ghana. A draw would have been a sensational result. Instead, they now face a serious battle to get out of a very competitive Group H.

    Otavio:

    It will be a massive shock if Otavio retains his place in the Portugal starting line-up for Monday's meeting with Uruguay. The Brazil-born attacking midfielder played with plenty of energy and enthusiasm, but a distinct lack of quality and cutting edge. He took a couple of ill-advised potshots from distance during the first half and was rightly replaced just 11 minutes into the second half after one horribly overhit attempted through-ball. Portugal are not lacking alternatives in Otavio's position, as the second half underlined. William Carvalho or Joao Mario could come into a slightly more defensively-minded midfield against Uruguay, or Santos might instead opt to start the jet-heeled Leao up front alongside Felix and Ronaldo, and bring Bruno Fernandes into a slightly more withdrawn role. Either way, Otavio's starting spot is under serious threat after a insipid display.

    The officials:

    In his post-match press conference, Ghana coach Otto Addo was given an opportunity by a journalist to congratulate Cristiano Ronaldo on his historic goal, which he did. But Addo immediately added that the forward's penalty was "a special gift". The implication was clear. In Addo's eyes, there had been two clear errors. The first was made by the referee, who awarded the spot-kick. And the second by VAR, by refusing to intervene. The officials will doubtless claim that there was contact, but the fact remains that it was nowhere near sufficient to justify Ronaldo's fall, or the award of a penalty. Addo's frustration was, thus, wholly understandable.

  • Ruben Dias Portugal 2022

    Portugal Ratings: Defence

    Diogo Costa (6/10):

    Made a couple of decent stops but didn't really inspire confidence. So very fortunate to have escaped with that lapse in concentration right at the death.

    Joao Cancelo (5/10):

    Not the usually influential performer we've seen at Manchester City over the past year. Indeed, even Danilo made more entries into the final third.

    Ruben Dias (6/10):

    Gave away a corner in the 37th minute by misjudging the time he had to clear the ball and looked uncomfortable at times, most notably on Ghana's equaliser. However, his distribution was literally flawless (100 percent pass completion rate) and he won plenty of headers in the air.

    Danilo Pereira (7/10):

    Failed to cut out the cut-back for Ayew's equaliser but that was mainly because he had been caught off-balance. The blame for that goal lay elsewhere. Indeed, he did a lot of good things with the ball and was dominant defensively.

    Raphael Guerreiro (5/10):

    Struggled to contain Ghana's forwards and, just like Cancelo, didn't offer anything like his usual attacking threat out wide.

  • Ruben Neves Portugal 2022

    Midfield

    Bernardo Silva (8/10):

    Repeatedly dropped deep to get on the ball, which was no bad thing for Portugal, as his passing was predictably precise. Didn't create too many clear-cut chances - his best ball was ballooned over the bar by Felix - but he regained possession more than any of his team-mates.

    Ruben Neves (5/10):

    Disappointing performance from the Wolves man, who passed the ball poorly. Gave away a couple of needless fouls and was completely burned by Mohammed Kudus early in the second half. Subbed well before the end.

    Otavio (4/10):

    Had a couple of efforts on goal but both were abysmal. Played one horribly overhit pass just before he was replaced in the 56th minute.

  • Joao Felix Portugal 2022

    Attack

    Bruno Fernandes (8/10):

    A class act on the ball, showing so many neat touches, and also worked tirelessly. Deserved his assist for Felix's crucial second goal.

    Cristiano Ronaldo (7/10):

    Looked rusty early on, which was perhaps surprising given how much game time he's seen of late. His first touch twice let him down in the first half but he inevitably broke the deadlock with his cunning in the penalty area.

    Joao Felix (8/10):

    The early signs weren't encouraging, with Felix's shooting proving particularly erratic in the opening 45 minutes, but he never stopped running and eventually proved Portugal's difference-maker during a frantic finale.

  • Rafael Leao Portugal 2022

    Subs & Manager

    William Carvalho (6/10):

    Came on for Otavio shortly after the restart and immediately launched the ball out of play. Improved thereafter, but by no means a game-changer.

    Rafael Leao (8/10):

    Came on and made an instant impact with the kind of cool finish AC Milan fans will be very familiar with. Has to start against Uruguay.

    Joao Palhinha (N/A):

    Only came on with two minutes of normal time remaining.

    Joao Mario (N/A):

    Also brought on in the 88th minute.

    Goncalo Ramos (N/A):

    The third member of Santos' late triple substitution.

    Fernando Santos (7/10):

    Perhaps the one big selection call was the inclusion of the out-of-form Felix, but that decision paid off big time. He can also point to the fact that the lightning-quick Leao immediately exposed Ghana's tiring legs late one.