Star man Ronaldo saves America

Star man Ronaldo saves America
Ghana's John Boye (L) scores an own goal during their 2014 World Cup Group G football match against Portugal at the Brasilia national stadium in Brasilia June 26, 2014.

Ronaldo's late winner, a close range blast after a goalkeeping error, wasn't enough to repair the damage done in the first two games, but with the US losing to Germany, it removed the possibility of a late qualification charge from Ghana.

Germany and the US progressed to the second round. Ronaldo, Portugal and Ghana will all go home.

Ghana entered the game under a cloud every bit as big as the one that almost wiped out Germany and the United States' game in Recife.

A portracted argument about bonuses had almost ended with a players' strike, but even with a convoy of cash secured, a clash between Sulley Muntari and a member of the Ghanaian FA, and the verbal input of Kevin Prince-Boateng, resulted in both players being sent home in disgrace.

The players eventually received their bonuses, as a picture of defender John Boye kissing a wad of cash, proved. But it didn't do very much good.

After half an hour, rattled by the ferocity of a Miguel Veloso cross, he swung a leg wildly, the ball rolled up his thigh, whistled past his ears and buried itself in the net.

Moments before half-time, facing another dangerous ball, he did exactly the same. This time, the ball skidded off his leg and fractionally over the bar. Whatever they paid him, it's hard to argue that he was worth it.

Portugal made their intentions clear as early as the sixth minute, with Ronaldo rushing down the right flank and bouncing a long shot off the crossbar.

REFLEXES

That was close, but Ronaldo went closer when he rose to meet a cross at point blank range, only to see Fatawu Dauda claw it away with the reflexes of a snake.

Ghana responded with sporadic forays down the right wing, hoping to capitalise on the same spaces enjoyed by the US on Sunday night, but with little final product.

Asamoah Gyan squandered the few chances his team made and his attempt to con the referee with a dive under the touch of Bruno Alves didn't fool anyone.

The second half was a very different matter.

Portugal's tournament was summed up when Ronaldo released the ball to Ruben Amorim in the penalty area. Five seconds later, Amorim had somehow worked his way from a scoring position to the corner flag. Ronaldo visibly sagged. He can't do it all alone.

As if to reinforce the point, Ghana equalised soon afterwards. Kwadwo Asamoah's wonderful cross was met by Gyan who headed decisively into the back of the net.

Ronaldo's late goal salvaged a little dignity for Portugal. Nevertheless, their summer is over.

npsports@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 27, 2014.
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