Cristiano Ronaldo begins World Cup campaign with Portugal after Manchester United departure



CNN

Cristiano Ronaldo will begin his World Cup campaign against Portugal two days after being sacked by Manchester United and will be looking to put the events of the past week and a half behind him.

Portugal face Ghana at the Stadio 974 on Thursday in what could be the final World Cup for Ronaldo, 37 – a title that has eluded him so far in his illustrious career.

A successful tournament in Qatar would also allow Ronaldo to move on from his messy divorce from United after ending his second spell at the club on Tuesday.

This comes after the striker gave an interview to Talk TV after claiming he had been betrayed by United and launched a scathing attack on manager Erik ten Haag.

And with the World Cup underway, Ronaldo has made sure his Portugal team-mates’ attention won’t waver during a bombshell interview.

“In my life, the best time is always my time,” he told reporters on Monday. “I don’t have to think about what other people think. I will talk when I want. The players have known me well for many years and know my style.

Ronaldo was banned for two games and fined 50,000 pounds (about $60,000) by the Football Association (FA) earlier this year for slapping a mobile phone from a spectator after it was announced he would be leaving Manchester United.

The incident happened after United lost 1-0 to Everton in April. On top of the fine and penalty – which will not apply at the World Cup but will be transferred to the new club he will join – Ronaldo has been warned by the FA about his future behaviour.

Portugal have become strong rivals with Ghana, separating 52 places in the FIFA rankings.

But pedigree and star power don’t seem to count for anything in this World Cup tournament where the underdogs have put up a good fight against powerful opposition.

Saudi Arabia came from behind to beat Argentina 2-1 and Japan did the same in Germany – clear signs that no team should be underestimated or taken for granted.

Portugal, who have not reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup since 2006, have a point to prove in Qatar and come into the tournament at full strength.

Liverpool striker Diogo Jota is out through injury, but the likes of Ronaldo, former United team-mate Bruno Fernandes and Manchester City stars Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva are likely to feature on Thursday.

Against them, a Ghanaian team short on form will not lack quality.

The Black Stars, who were knocked out of the African Cup of Nations following an embarrassing group stage defeat to Comoros in January, will benefit from the pre-tournament “signings” of forward Inaki Williams and right-back Tariq Lamptey.

Williams switched allegiance from Spain and Lamptey from England earlier this year.

Otto Addo, the only part-time coach in the competition – also has star midfielder Mohamed Qudus and experienced campaigners Thomas Parte and the Ayew brothers, Jordan and Andre, on hand.

Otto Addo told reporters ahead of Ghana's match against Portugal.

It remains to be seen whether Ado, who primarily works as a scout for German side Borussia Dortmund, can make Ghana click.

Also in Group H are Uruguay and South Korea, who will play at the School City Stadium on Thursday.

Uruguay are favorites and will benefit from the experience of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez. Liverpool forward Darwin Nunez will also feature in attack, while midfielders Rodrigo Bentancur and Federico Valverde have been in good form of late.

The positive news for South Korea is that star player Son Heung-min has recovered from an injured eye socket and has been practicing wearing a protective face mask this week.

In Thursday’s other games, pre-tournament favorites Brazil and Serbia will be the last two teams to start the tournament when they meet at the Luzille Stadium.

Five-time champions Brazil have the best attacking line-up in the tournament, both in terms of quality and depth.

Neymar Jr – like compatriots Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – is looking for his first World Cup trophy, and will be backed up front by Real Madrid’s Vinicius Jr, Barcelona’s Rafinha and Everton’s Richarlison.

Neymar (centre) trains with Brazil ahead of the World Cup in Doha, Qatar.

But Serbia, who topped their qualifying group ahead of Portugal, will be no slouch and have the ability to score plenty of goals in captain Dusan Tadic, Juventus forward Dusan Vlahovic and Fulham forward Aleksandar Mitrovic. However, Vlahovic and Mitrovic are both nursing injuries ahead of the tournament.

Serbia will be battling to reach the round of 16 with Switzerland and Cameroon on Thursday as they hope to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time.

But as this World Cup has shown so far, don’t let that get you down.

Switzerland vs Cameroon – 5pm ET

Uruguay vs. South Korea – ET 8 am

Portugal vs Ghana – 11:00 ET

Brazil vs Serbia – 2 pm in Ethiopia

USA: Fox Sports

UK: BBC or ITV

Australia: SBS

Brazil: Sport TV

Germany: ARD, ZDF, Deutsche Telekom

Canada: Bell Media

South Africa: SABC

Source

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