Neither team could do what was needed and both went home. That was the story of Thursday afternoon’s clash between Portugal and Ghana.
Starting the game with a goal difference of -4, Portugal needed to win by five goals and hope that the USA lost to Germany.
Ronaldo's Portugal did win the game but they huffed and puffed to a 2-1 victory.
Ghana’s job was simple, they just needed to win. But as reports emerged on match day that Sulley Muntari, who was suspended for the game, and Kevin Prince-Boateng had been suspended and sent home, victory proved too difficult a mountain to climb. They had their chances though.
By losing their first game 0-4 to Germany, Portugal had simply left themselves with too much to do.
But for a superb cross from Ronaldo which Silvestre Varela converted this match would have been meaningless anyway for them. In their final group game, they needed Ronaldo to fire.
He hasn’t played well for Portugal since last November when his one-man show beat that of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. But that was then. This Ronaldo was clearly not fit, frequently seen bending over hands on his knees.
Not once could he produce the burst of acceleration that has made him such a lethal player, the best on the planet now. When once he could having got between Ghanaian central defenders, Ronaldo chose to play on Portugal’s left back Miguel Veloso who wasted the initiative with an ordinary cross. Ronaldo tried his best, he even scored but on the afternoon Portugal needed his A game and a firm belief in miracles, their skipper showed he just wasn’t up to it.
Yet Ronaldo tried to the point that he was chosen Man of the Match in an online poll by fans worldwide. The MoM though could, maybe even should, have gone to the Ghana goalkeeper Fatawu Dauda. Like Vincent Eneyama of Nigeria who denied Angel di Maria a hattrick on Wednesday, Dauda stood between Ronaldo and the goal on either side of a howler in the 80th minute. But it also has to be said that Ronaldo’s efforts were too close to Dauda.
For Portugal, the best piece of skill came not from Ronaldo but from Joao Moutinho while setting up the first goal with Mohammed Rabiu so close to him. Though had he scored from an angle marginally less acute than that of Marco van Basten in the 1988 European championship, the story could have been different. This Portugal team looked terribly dependent on Ronaldo who was the source of most of Uruguay’s attacks.
Problem was: Ronaldo was often left stranded by the lack of quality of the final deliveries or the return-pass. This team does appear totally dependent on him. And that didn’t help.
Ghana are a young team, most of the squad of 2010 having ended its shelf life. The process of rebuilding had started with an eye on next year’s African Nations’ Cup qualifiers. Paulo Bento’s side too needs to rebuild with an eye on the European championships.