BRASILIA – Gp G: Portugal 2, Ghana 1
—- Cristiano Ronaldo signed off a deeply depressing personal World Cup with the winning goal as Portugal beat Ghana not by enough goals to rescue qualification for the second round.
Ghana defender John Boye gifted Portugal the lead when he turned a cross into his own net, but Asamoah Gyan headed in an equaliser to become Africa’s all-time top scorer at the finals. In the closing minutes, however, Ronaldo capitalised on a goalkeeping blunder to score.
However they would have needed three more goals to overtake the United States on goal difference and that never looked likely, even against a Ghanaian team ravaged by internal prolems.
Ronaldo’s goal was his first in what was ultimately a disappointing tournament for a player who had scored 51 times in 47 appearances for Real Madrid last season.
The 29-year-old, who has suffered with knee and thigh injuries, roamed across the Portugal frontline against the African side and, initially, he was at the centre of their best chances.
First, he almost caught out scrambling Ghana goalkeeper Fatawu Dauda with an audacious chip that smacked the crossbar, before his close-range header from Joao Pereira’s pinpoint cross was instinctively batted away by Dauda, who turned and roared in delight at the Ghana fans behind his goal.
His joy, though, was short-lived, as Ghana conceded an unfortunate opener midway through the half.
Joao Moutinho fed Miguel Veloso on the left and he delivered a teasing cross that Ghana centre-back Boye deflected into the top corner of his own goal with his thigh.
While Portugal’s problems have solely been on the pitch, Ghana’s preparations were hampered by chaos behind the scene.
Midfielders Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng had been expelled from the squad for indiscipline – although Muntari would have missed the Portugal game anyway through suspension after picking up yellow cards in their first two games – while players had even threatened to boycott the Portugal fixture because of a row over appearance fees.
For all their enterprising build-up play, it seemed Ghana would need a moment of magic to get back into the game.
That arrived just before the hour as Kwadwo Asamoah curled a stunning cross with the outside of his boot towards the far post, where Gyan was on hand to plant a header into the net.
With Germany leading the USA at the time, qualification suddenly became a realistic possibility for Ghana and they came agonisingly close to securing the win they needed when Majeed Waris flicked a header just wide from Gyan’s cross.
However, Dauda ended his own side’s hopes of securing victory when he pawed at a Portugal cross, clearing only as far as Ronaldo, who made no mistake.
Portugal coach Paulo Bento said: “It’s not fair to blame individuals. We made mistakes as a team in the three matches – and I will never hold any individual responsible. We win and lose as a team.
“It’s a tough time for us and we feel down as we all wanted to qualify for the Round of 16. We must now grow and advance so that we don’t feel the same in 2016.”
Ronaldo added: “We created many opportunities but we could not finish them all. We knew we had to score three goals and we were depending on the result of the Germany game.
“We knew it was complicated but what’s left at the end shows that it was possible considering the number of opportunities we created during the game.”
Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah said: “It was a very exciting match with many chances on both sides. Unfortunately we didn’t take ours and they took theirs.”