Two days after his turbulent departure from Manchester United, Cristiano Ronaldo will start his World Cup marketing campaign with Portugal and look to place occasions from the final week-and-a-half behind him.
Portugal faces Ghana at Stadium 974 on Thursday, kicking off what is going to seemingly be the 37-year-old Ronaldo’s last World Cup – a trophy that has up to now eluded him over the course of his adorned profession.
A profitable match in Qatar would additionally enable Ronaldo to maneuver on from his messy divorce with United having ended his second spell on the membership on Tuesday.
It got here after the ahead gave an explosive interview to Talk TV during which he stated he felt betrayed by United and launched a scathing assault on supervisor Erik ten Hag.
And because the World Cup will get underway, Ronaldo has offered assurances that the main focus of his Portuguese teammates received’t be shaken by the timing of his bombshell interview.
“In my life, one of the best timing is at all times my timing,” he advised reporters on Monday. “I don’t have to consider what different folks assume. I converse once I need. The gamers know me very well for a few years and know the kind of individual I’m.”
Following the announcement of his departure from Manchester United, Ronaldo was suspended for 2 video games and fined £50,000 (round $60,000) by the English Soccer Affiliation (FA) for slapping a mobile phone out of a spectator’s hand earlier this yr.
The incident got here after United’s 1-0 loss in opposition to April in Everton. On prime of the tremendous and suspension – which doesn’t apply on the World Cup however will likely be transferred to any new membership he joins – Ronaldo was warned by the FA about his future conduct.
Portugal is the sturdy favourite in opposition to Ghana with 52 locations separating the edges in FIFA’s rankings.
However pedigree and star energy seem to rely for little at this World Cup, a match during which underdogs have fared effectively in opposition to mightier opponents.
Saudi Arabia got here from behind to defeat Argentina 2-1 whereas Japan did the identical in opposition to Germany – clear indicators that no group needs to be underestimated, nor ought to any group bask in complacency.
Having not reached the quarterfinals of a World Cup since 2006, Portugal has a degree to show in Qatar and arrives on the match with appreciable firepower.
Regardless of lacking Liverpool ahead Diogo Jota by means of damage, the likes of Ronaldo, his outdated United teammate Bruno Fernandes, and Manchester Metropolis stars João Cancelo and Bernardo Silva are all prone to characteristic on Thursday.
Towards them will likely be a Ghana group quick on type however with no scarcity of high quality.
Having been dumped out of the Africa Cup of Nations after a humiliating group-stage defeat in opposition to Comoros in January, the Black Stars will profit from the “signings” of ahead Inaki Williams and right-back Tariq Lamptey forward of the match.
Williams switched allegiances from Spain earlier this yr and Lamptey from England.
Otto Addo – the one part-time coach on the match – additionally has at his disposal star midfielder Mohammed Kudus and skilled campaigners together with Thomas Partey and the Ayew brothers, Jordan and Andre.
Whether or not Addo, who principally works as a scout for German group Borussia Dortmund, can get Ghana to click on stays to be seen.
Additionally in Group H are Uruguay and South Korea, who play one another on the Training Metropolis Stadium on Thursday.
Uruguay is the favourite and can profit from the expertise of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez. Liverpool ahead Darwin Núñez may even characteristic within the assault, whereas midfielders Rodrigo Bentancur and Federico Valverde have been in wonderful type of late.
The constructive information for South Korea is that star participant Son Heung-Min has recovered from a broken eye socket and has been coaching in a protecting face masks this week.
In Thursday’s different video games, pre-tournament favourite Brazil and Serbia would be the final two groups to get their tournaments underway after they meet at Lusail Stadium.
5-time champion Brazil arguably boasts one of the best attacking line-up within the match, each by way of high quality and depth.
Neymar Jr – like fellow talismans Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – is looking for his first World Cup trophy, and he will likely be ably supported upfront alongside Actual Madrid’s Vinicius Jr., Barcelona’s Raphinha, and Tottenham’s Richarlison.
However Serbia, which topped its qualifying group forward of Portugal, will likely be no pushover and has loads of goalscoring prowess in captain Dušan Tadić, Juventus ahead Dušan Vlahović, and Fulham entrance man Aleksandar Mitrovic. Nevertheless, Vlahović and Mitrovic have each been nursing accidents forward of the match.
Hoping to succeed in the knockout levels of a World Cup for the primary time, Serbia will seemingly need to battle it out with Switzerland and Cameroon, who face one another on Thursday, to succeed in the spherical of 16 – barring any disastrous outcomes for Brazil.
However as this World Cup has demonstrated up to now, don’t rule out any eventuality.
Switzerland vs Cameroon – 5am Jap time
Uruguay vs South Korea – 8am ET
Portugal vs Ghana – 11am ET
Brazil vs Serbia – 2pm ET
US: Fox Sports activities
UK: BBC or ITV
Germany: ARD, ZDF, Deutsche Telekom
Canada: Bell Media
South Africa: SABC