Two days after his turbulent departure from Manchester United, Cristiano Ronaldo will start his World Cup 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 probably be the 37-year-old Ronaldo’s ultimate World Cup – a trophy that has to date eluded him over the course of his adorned profession.
A profitable match in Qatar would additionally permit 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 through 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 provided assurances that the main focus of his Portuguese teammates will not be shaken by the timing of his bombshell interview.
“In my life, the perfect timing is at all times my timing,” he advised reporters on Monday. “I haven’t got to consider what different individuals assume. I converse after I need. The gamers know me rather well for a few years and know the kind of particular person 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 Football Association (FA) for slapping a mobile phone out of a spectator’s hand earlier this 12 months.
The incident got here after United’s 1-0 loss in opposition to April in Everton. On prime of the effective and suspension – which doesn’t apply on the World Cup however can be transferred to any new membership he joins – Ronaldo was warned by the FA about his future conduct.
Portugal is the robust favourite in opposition to Ghana with 52 locations separating the perimeters in FIFA’s rankings.
But pedigree and star energy seem to rely for little at this World Cup, a match through which underdogs have fared nicely 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 crew must be underestimated, nor ought to any crew bask in complacency.
Having not reached the quarterfinals of a World Cup since 2006, Portugal has some extent to show in Qatar and arrives on the match with appreciable firepower.
Despite lacking Liverpool ahead Diogo Jota by damage, the likes of Ronaldo, his outdated United teammate Bruno Fernandes, and Manchester City stars João Cancelo and Bernardo Silva are all more likely to function on Thursday.
Against them can be a Ghana crew 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 12 months 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 Addo, who primarily works as a scout for the German crew Borussia Dortmund, can get Ghana to click on stays to be seen.
Also in Group H are Uruguay and South Korea, who play one another on the Education City 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 function within the assault, whereas midfielders Rodrigo Bentancur and Federico Valverde have been in glorious 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 once they meet at Lusail Stadium.
Five-time champion Brazil arguably boasts the perfect 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 can be ably supported upfront alongside Real Madrid’s Vinicius Jr., Barcelona’s Raphinha, and Everton’s Richarlison.
But Serbia, which topped its qualifying group forward of Portugal, can be no pushover and has loads of goalscoring prowess in captain Dušan Tadić, Juventus ahead Dušan Vlahović, and Fulham entrance man Aleksandar Mitrovic. However, Vlahović and Mitrovic have each been nursing accidents forward of the match.
Hoping to succeed in the knockout phases of a World Cup for the primary time, Serbia will probably should 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.
But as this World Cup has demonstrated to date, do not rule out any eventuality.
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
UK: BBC or ITV
Germany: ARD, ZDF, Deutsche Telekom
Canada: Bell Media
South Africa: SABC