Cristiano Ronaldo begins World Cup campaign with Portugal after Manchester United departure



CNN

Two days after his shock exit from Manchester United, Cristiano Ronaldo will begin his World Cup campaign with Portugal and look to put the events of the past week and a half behind him.

Portugal take on Ghana at Stadium 974 on Thursday, kicking off what will likely be 37-year-old Ronaldo’s last World Cup – a trophy that has eluded him so far in his decorated career.

A successful tournament in Qatar would also allow Ronaldo to move on from his messy divorce with United, having ended his second spell at the club on Tuesday.

It came after the forward gave an explosive interview to Talk TV in which he said he felt betrayed by United and launched a scathing attack on manager Erik ten Haag.

And as the World Cup gets under way, Ronaldo has offered assurances that his Portugal team-mates’ focus will not be shaken by his bombshell interview.

“In my life, the best timing is always my timing,” he told reporters on Monday. “I don’t have to think about what other people think. I talk when I want to. The players have known me very well for many years and know the type of person I am.”

After announcing his departure from Manchester United, Ronaldo was banned for two matches and fined 50,000 pounds (about $60,000) by the English Football Association (FA) for slapping a mobile phone out of a spectator’s hand earlier this year.

The incident followed United’s 1-0 defeat at Everton in April. As well as the fine and ban – which does not apply to the World Cup but will transfer to whichever new club he joins – Ronaldo was warned by the FA about his future behaviour.

Portugal are strong favorites against Ghana with 52 places separating the two teams in the FIFA rankings.

But pedigree and star power seem to count for little at this World Cup, a tournament in which underdogs have fared well against stronger opponents.

Saudi Arabia came from behind to beat Argentina 2-1, while Japan did the same against Germany – clear signs that neither team should be underestimated, nor should any team indulge in complacency.

Having not reached the quarter-finals of a World Cup since 2006, Portugal have a point to prove in Qatar and arrive at the tournament with plenty of firepower.

Despite an injury to Liverpool striker Diogo Jota, the likes of Ronaldo, his old United team-mate Bruno Fernandes and Manchester City stars Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva are likely to feature on Thursday.

Up against them will be a Ghana side in low form but not lacking in quality.

Having been kicked out of the Africa Cup of Nations following a humiliating group defeat to Comoros in January, the Black Stars will benefit from the pre-tournament signings of striker Inaki Williams and right-back Tariq Lamptey.

Williams switched allegiance from Spain earlier this year and Lambtey from England.

Otto Addo – the only part-time coach at the tournament – also has star midfielder Mohammed Kudus and experienced strikers such as Thomas Partey and the Ayew brothers, Jordan and Andre at his disposal.

Otto Ado speaks to reporters ahead of Ghana's match against Portugal.

Whether Ando, ​​who mainly works as a scout for German side Borussia Dortmund, can make Ghana click remains to be seen.

Group H also features Uruguay and South Korea, who play each other at the Education City Stadium on Thursday.

Uruguay are the favorites and will benefit from the experience of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez. Liverpool striker Darwin Nunes will also be in the attack, while midfielders Rodrigo Bedancourt and Federico Valverde have been in excellent form in recent years.

The positive news for South Korea is that star player Son Heung-Min has recovered from a damaged eye socket and is training with a protective face mask this week.

In Thursday’s other games, pre-tournament favorites Brazil and Serbia will be the last two teams to kick off their tournaments when they meet at the Lusail Stadium.

Five-time champions Brazil have arguably the best attacking line-up in the competition, both in terms of quality and depth.

Neymar Jr – like fellow talismans Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – is looking for his first World Cup trophy and will be ably supported up front alongside Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior, Barcelona’s Rafinha and Everton’s Richarlison.

Neymar (centre) trains with Brazil in Doha, Qatar ahead of the World Cup.

However, Serbia, who topped their qualifying group ahead of Portugal, will have no push and have plenty of goalscoring ability with captain Dusan Tadic, Juventus striker Dusan Vlahovic and Fulham front man Aleksandar Mitrovic. However, Vlahovic and Mitrovic have both been injured before the tournament.

Hoping to reach the knockout stages of a World Cup for the first time, Serbia will likely have to battle Switzerland and Cameroon, who face each other on Thursday, to reach the last 16 – barring any disastrous results for Brazil.

But as this World Cup has shown so far, don’t rule out any possibility.

Switzerland v Cameroon – 5am eastern time

Uruguay v South Korea – 8am ET

Portugal v Ghana – 11am ET

Brazil vs. Serbia – 2 p.m. ET

USA: Fox Sports

UK: BBC or ITV

Australia: SBS

Brazil: SportTV

Germany: ARD, ZDF, Deutsche Telekom

Canada: Bell Media

South Africa: SABC

Source

Also Read :  World Cup 2022: which teams are out of FIFA tournament?

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