Portugal and Ghana exit under clouds of their own making

Ronaldo finally finds the net but it’s all a bit too little too late for Portugal in Brasilia

Portugal 2 Ghana 1

For Ghana, the abiding image at this World Cup will be the photograph of a dozen police vehicles or more, complete with flashing lights, transporting €2.2 million in cash from Brasília airport to the team hotel in the early hours of the morning. James Appiah's players got their appearance money in the end but, rather predictably, they also suffered elimination and will return home in disgrace after a chaotic and shambolic chain of events.

Portugal finally picked up a victory, courtesy of Cristiano Ronaldo’s first goal at these finals, but it was a case of too little too late for player and country. They finished third, behind the USA on goal difference, and will ruefully reflect on that opening game against Germany, when Pepe was sent off and they were thrashed 4-0. That is where the damage was done. Portugal laid siege to the Ghana goal in the closing 10 minutes, when Ronaldo, incredibly, had three decent chances to score. He failed to take any of them and Portugal were out.

Ghana had briefly threatened to resurrect their own hopes of reaching the knockout stage early in the second half when Asamoah Gyan scored his sixth World Cup goal to supplant Roger Milla as Africa’s all-time leading scorer in the tournament. Five minutes later Majeed Waris should have put Ghana ahead – a 2-1 win would have been enough to see Ghana through – but he somehow headed wide.


The Black Stars have finished bottom of the group, which is perhaps no surprise given how the day started, when the Ghana Football Association released a statement confirming that Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng had been suspended indefinitely for disciplinary reasons. It was a bizarre way to start the day and made the football feel like an intrusion on Ghana’s best attempts to take some of the headlines away from Luis Suárez. On the pitch, things were not looking much better for the African nation after a first half when they threatened only sporadically and the wonderfully-named John Boye calamitously put through his own net.

Ghana will, however, feel bitterly disappointed with what happened at the other end of the field in the lead up to that goal, when a promising move was brought to an end on the edge of the Portugal penalty area courtesy of the referee. Nawaf Shukralla, the Bahrain official, blocked André Ayew’s attempts to spread the ball wide. Ayew was absolutely furious but worse was to come for Ghana.

Miguel Veloso’s cross from the left, after some neat footwork from João Moutinho, ought to have been cut out at the near post but Boye got in a terrible tangle and ended up kicking thin air. Unfortunately for the central defender he still make some contact with the ball, which looped off his knee and over the head of Fatau Dauda, the Ghana goalkeeper. As own goals go, it will take some beating. Incredibly Boye came close to doing the same thing again on the stroke of half-time, this time from Nani’s centre.

On the balance of play, Portugal deserved their lead. Ronaldo, sporting something resembling a mohican, hit the woodwork after only five minutes – albeit with a mis-hit cross – and only the superb reflexes of Dauda denied him later in the half, when his powerful but poorly directed header from João Pereira’s fine cross was kept out. Dauda enjoyed the moment and celebrated as if he had won the World Cup. The Ghana goalkeeper also repelled a 25-yard free-kick from the Real Madrid forward.

Ghana’s best moment in the first half came just after Ronaldo’s header was saved. Gyan, running on to a ball over the top, controlled on his chest and held off the challenge from Bruno Alves but Beto came off his line to smother. The only other chance of note for Ghana during that period was when Christian Atsu, the Chelsea winger, cut inside Pereira but curled well wide.

In the second half, however, Ghana briefly looked a different proposition. There was a warning for Portugal moments before Ghana equalised, when Gyan cut inside and hit the side-netting. Five minutes later the striker found his range. Ayew released Kwadwo Asamoah and the Ghana left back delivered a sublime cross with the outside of his boot, picking out Gyan, who headed home.

It was game on. Ghana were playing with renewed confidence and should have been celebrating again on the hour mark. Gyan crossed from the left but Waris, unmarked and with the goal at his mercy, inexplicably headed wide. Back came Portugal through Ronaldo, who had reasonable claims for a penalty turned down in the 73rd minute, when Boye barged him over as he broke into the area.

Ronaldo finally got off the mark in Brazil seven minutes later, after more dreadful Ghana defending. Jonathan Mensah’s header from Nani’s cross looped up into the air and Dauda flapped at the ball when attempting to clear. Ronaldo drilled in the rebound but there was not a flicker of emotion from him. Portugal’s fate was sealed.

(Guardian Service)