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



CNN

Two days after his turbulent departure from Manchester United, Cristiano Ronaldo will begin his World Cup campaign with Portugal and will be looking to put the events of the last week and a half behind him.

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

A successful tour of Qatar would also allow Ronaldo to move on from his messy divorce with United as he ended his second spell at the club on Tuesday.

It came after the striker 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 Hag.

And as the World Cup gets under way, Ronaldo has offered assurances that the focus of his Portuguese teammates will not be shaken by the timing of his bombshell interview.

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

After announcing his departure from Manchester United, Ronaldo was suspended for two matches and fined £50,000 (about $60,000) by the FA for punching a mobile phone from a spectator earlier this season. the year.

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

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

But origins and star power seem to matter little in 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 settle for 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 considerable firepower.

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

Against them will be a Ghanaian team in poor form but not lacking in quality.

After being kicked out of the Africa Cup of Nations following a humiliating group stage defeat against Comoros in January, the Black Stars will benefit from the “signings” of forward Inaki Williams and right-back Tariq Lamptey ahead of the tournament.

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

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

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

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

Also in Group H are Uruguay and South Korea, who play each other at the Education City Stadium on Thursday.

Uruguay is the favorite and will benefit from the experience of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez. Liverpool forward Darwin Núñez will also feature in attack, while midfielders Rodrigo Bentancur and Federico Valverde have been in excellent form of late.

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

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

Five-time champions Brazil boast the best attacking line-up at the tournament, both in terms of quality and depth.

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

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

But Serbia, who topped their qualifying group ahead of Portugal, will be no pushovers and have plenty of scoring ability in captain Dushan Tadic, Juventus striker Dushan Vlahovic and Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic. However, Vlahović and Mitrovic have both been injured before the tournament.

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

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

Switzerland vs Cameroon – 05:00 ET

Uruguay – South Korea – 8 a.m. ET

Portugal – Ghana – 11:00 a.m. ET

Brazil – Serbia – 2:00 PM ET

USA: Fox Sports

UK: BBC or ITV

Australia: SBS

Brazil: SportTV

Germany: ARD, ZDF, Deutsche Telekom

Canada: Bell Media

South Africa: SABC

Source

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