While United States versus Germany match took center stage stateside, there remained a watchful eye on “the other match.” Both Portugal and Ghana needed a clear winner in the United States vs. Germany encounter and then needed to beat their own opponent convincingly to have a chance to advance to the knockout stage.
Portugal, a team that was undoubtedly more desperate to score considering their woeful goal differential, played with greater attacking impetus from the first whistle. Despite personnel changes, Portugal’s greatest threat was still on the flanks. A typically audacious shot from Ronaldo down the right wing struck woodwork in the 5th minute and served as a warning to Ghana.
The Ballon d’Or winner then came close in the 19th minute with a header from six yards out only to be denied by a terrific save from Ghanaian goalkeeper Dauda.
The deadlock however was broken in the 30th minute. Miguel Veloso found space down the left and served a low cross that Ghanaian center back John Boye awkwardly placed into his own net. Though the manner of the goal was unexpected and harsh on a player who had been one of Ghana’s standout performers through its first two matches, the score seemed warranted.
Portugal was rewarded for its greater urgency but knew that it still needed more to overcome the effects of the thrashing it suffered at the hands of Germany in its first game.
However, Ghana was the team to find the back of the net next. The Black Stars came out of halftime rejuvenated. Their early second half performance was rewarded when Asamoah Gyan’s head got on the end of a perfectly placed Kwado Asamoah cross in the 57th minute. At that moment, with the United States 1-0 down thanks to a Thomas Muller goal, the Ghanaians needed one more goal to leapfrog the United States into second place.
And though second place seemed closer to Ghana’s grasp than to Portugal’s, it was the Portuguese that grabbed the next goal. Nani’s seemingly harmless cross in the 80th minute was poorly dealt with by both defender Jonothan Mensah and goalkeeper Dauda. The ball landed at the left foot of Ronaldo just outside the penalty area, and the Real Madrid man didn’t hesitate to expertly slot in. The goal, much like Portugal’s first, was down to sloppiness from the Ghanaian defense.
Ronaldo’s goal left Ghana shell-shocked. The Africans went from one goal away to possible qualification into the knockout stage all the way to last place in the Group of Death the instant Ronaldo found the net. It was indeed Ronaldo that looked the most likely to get on the score sheet in the game’s dying minutes as he looked to end his World Cup in style.
In the end, the world’s best player would have to settle for one goal in a match that saw both national sides eliminated from the World Cup. The real winners from the match were the United States, whose 1-0 defeat to Germany in Recife did little to change their positions as runners up in the Group of Death. He may face criticism from around the globe following his side’s early exit from the World Cup, but one thing is for sure: Ronaldo for a brief moment was the most popular man in America today.
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