After Brazil overcame a resilient Serbia today, all teams have played their World Cup openers. There have been routs and surprises. Coming into the Portugal game today the question was whether we would see them live up to expectations, or whether Ghana would stage a relative upset.

The first half of the game was pretty slow. Ghana did a good job canceling out Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, who missed two decent opportunities to open the scoring. Portugal dominated possession with 70% of the ball. However, it was possession without purpose.

In Spain’s decimation of Costa Rica, the most impressive passages were when Spain’s tiki-taka play turned rapidly and incisively into goal-scoring opportunities. That incisiveness was lacking in the Portugal attack.

Cristiano Ronaldo, man of the moment

With a goal at this World Cup, Cristiano would be the first male player to score in five separate World Cups. In the second half, Ronaldo’s moment came.

Ronaldo’s critics point to his age and decline in pace. However, his football IQ is as sharp as ever. He saw the opportunity to make a run in the box and drew the foul. Some may have found the foul to be soft, but the canny Portuguese free agent played his role to perfection.

A team effort to hold on

After Ghana equalized with a goal from captain Andre Ayew, it looked like Portuguese hearts would be broken. Then, in a master stroke, Fernando Santos brought on Rafael Leao.

With Leao up front Joao Felix slipped further back into midfield, and Bruno Fernandes sat further back too. The impact was immediate. A smartly finished Joao Felix goal was quickly followed by a third from Leao with the Milan striker’s first touch of the game.

A rare mistake from Joao Cancelo opened the door for another Ghana goal. This meant a nervy finish for Portugal. Hearts were in mouths at the end of added time when Inaki Williams snuck up on goalkeeper Diogo Costa and almost stole the win from Portugal.

Where do they stack up?

This was the stereotypical game of two halves. Based on the first half, Portugal struggled to get the ball into the final third. In the second half, Portugal looked slick. Their status as challengers will become clear in the next games against Uruguay and Korea.

What’s different about this Portugal team is that, for perhaps the first time in two decades, Cristiano Ronaldo is not their best player on the field. Joao Felix was a menace. The young Altetico Madrid star played a pivotal role in the second and third goals.

Portugal’s win was not as convincing as their Iberian neighbors, Spain. The win wasn’t as comprehensive as France. It wasn’t as much of a runaway as England. Ghana are known to be hard to break down at the World Cup, and Portugal did so three times with ease in the second half.

Though not the strongest showing we’ve seen so far, Portugal have shown they have come to do the business. This time it feels like they have the squad to get it done.

Photo credit: IMAGO / Pro Sports Images

Guide to World Cup 2022

Here are some resources to help you get the most out of the biggest event in soccer!
TV Schedule: All the info on where and when to watch every game
The Groups: We breakdown each group and all the teams
The Kits: Check out what every team will be wearing on the field this fall
Predictor: Play out every scenario with our World Cup Predictor
World Cup Bracket: Map out the entire tournament, from the groups to the final