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


Two days after his turbulent departure from Manchester United, Cristiano Ronaldo will begin his World Cup campaign with Portugal and the results of the last week and a half will await him.

Portugal kicks off Ghana at Stadium 974 on Thursday, kicking off what will be 37-year-old Ronaldo’s final World Cup – the trophy that has so far eluded him in the course of his decorated career.

A successful tournament in Qatar would also allow Ronaldo to move on from the news of his divorce with United ending his second spell at the club on Tuesday.

After progressing, he gave an explosive TV interview in which he said he had been betrayed by United and launched a scathing attack on manager Eric Ten Hag.

And when the World Cup gets underway, Ronaldo has offered assurances that the focus should not be on his Portuguese teammates during the bombshell conference.

“In my life, Leo is always my best,” 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 really well for many years and they know what kind of person I am.

Following the announcement of his departure from Manchester United, Ronaldo was suspended for two games and fined £50,000 (about $60,000) by the English Football Association (FA) for hitting a cell phone out of a spectator’s hand earlier this year.

The incident occurred after the league’s 1-0 loss against Verton in April. On top of the fine and the suspension – which does not affect the World Cup, but will be transferred to any new club he joins – Ronaldo has been warned by the FA about the future event.

Portugal is a strong favorite against Ghana with the 52nd place side in the FIFA ranking.

But the crest and the star of power seem to count little in this world Cup, whose tournament dogs have fought well against more powerful opponents.

Saudi Arabia is coming off the back of a 2-1 defeat to Argentina, while Japan did the same against Germany – clear signs that no team should be underestimated and no team should indulge in complacency.

Portugal reached the point of testing Qatar and did not arrive at the tournament with great firepower.

Despite missing Liverpool’s Diogo Iota through injury, the likes of Ronaldo, his former England club Bruno Fernandes, and Manchester City stars João Cancelo and Bernardo Silva are all likely to feature on Thursday.

Against them, Ghana will be a team short on form but with no shortage of quality.

After scrapping the Africa Cup of Nations after an ignominious stage defeat against the Comoros in January, the Black Stars will be assisted by “signature” forward Inaki Williams and right-back Tariq Lamptey before the tournament.

Earlier this year, Williams changed leagues from Spain and Lampteius from England.

Otto Addo – the only part of the season in the tournament – also has at his disposal the star midfielder Mohammed Kudus and experienced campaigns between Thomas Partey and the Ayew brothers, Jordan and Andre.

Otto Addo speaks to reporters before Ghana's game against Portugal.

Whether Addo, who primarily works as a scout for German team Borussia Dortmund, can get Ghana to downgrade 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 a favorite and 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 player Son Heung-Min has recovered from an injured eye nerve and has been training in a protective face mask this week.

In other games on Thursday, pre-tournament favorites Brazil and Serbia will be the last two teams to meet on their holiday at the Lusail Stadium.

Brazil’s five-time champion boasts arguably the best attacking line in the tournament, both in terms of quality and depth.

Neymar Jr. – like teammates such as Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – is looking for his first Cup Trophy, and will be strong in front of Real Madrid’s Vinicius Jr., Barcelona’s Raphinha, and Everton’s Richarlison.

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

But Serbia, who are decisively ahead of their group Portugal, will have no push and plenty of attacking prowess in captain Dušan Tadić, Juventus forward Dušan Vlahović, and Fulham front man Aleksandar Mitrovic. However, Vlahović and Mitrovic were nursing injuries before the tournament.

Hoping to break the ranks of the World Cup for the first time, Serbia is likely to battle with Switzerland and Cameroon, who will meet each other on Thursday, in order to reach the round of 16 – preventing some disastrous results for Brazil.

But since this World Cup has only shown, it does not rule out any event.

Switzerland vs Cameroon – 5am Eastern time

Uruguay vs. South Korea – 8am ET

Portugal vs Ghana – 11am ET

Brazil vs. Serbia – 2pm ET

US: Fox Sports


Australia: SBS

Brazil: SportTV

Germany: ARD, ZDF, Deutsche Telekom

Canada: Bell Media

South Africa: SABC


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