World Cup Daily: Unsung heroes shine in Portugal win


After each FIFA World Cup 2022 matchday, Sportsnet.ca’s World Cup Daily blog will recap the day’s events and look at the next day’s match slate.

Here’s what happened Thursday in Qatar, in case you missed it…

THE RESULTS

Switzerland 1, Cameroon 0 in Al Wakrah: Match report || Match statistics

Uruguay 0, South Korea 0 at Al Wakrah: Match report || Match statistics

Portugal 3, Ghana 2 in Doha: Match report || Match statistics

Brazil 2, Serbia 0 in Lusail: Match report || Match statistics

Canada at the 2022 FIFA World Cup

Canada returns to the FIFA World Cup for the first time since 1986 and Sportsnet journalists and insiders will have full coverage of Qatar across all platforms.

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MAIN TALKING POINTS

Unsung heroes shine in Portugal victory

All eyes were on Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo as he made his Qatar debut just two days after his public split with Manchester United, and he marked the occasion by making history. He converted from 12 yards in the 65th minute against Ghana after taking a somewhat questionable penalty. In doing so, the Portuguese star became the first man in history to score in five different World Cup tournaments.

Ronaldo will make headlines for his side’s 3-2 victory in Group H, but it was a trio of other players who were far more influential that night for Portugal. João Félix, 23, is someone who hasn’t quite lived up to his hype, but the Atlético Madrid star seized his chance when he scored with a sublime finish at the 78th minute to give Portugal a 2-1 lead.

Soon after, 23-year-old Rafael Leão demonstrated why he is one of the best young stars to watch at this tournament. Leão came off the bench and needed just three minutes to score on his World Cup debut when his first shot found the far corner of the net. His strike proved important as Ghana scored a late goal to make things incredibly uncomfortable for Portugal down the stretch.

Both goals from Leão and Félix were set up by Bruno Fernandes, who delivered perfect passes that opened up Ghana’s defence. Throughout the match, the Manchester United star was Portugal’s chief architect thanks to his excellent distribution and linking up with his attacking teammates. Without his efforts, the Portuguese could have suffered another fate. Instead, they top Group H largely due to the efforts of their unsung heroes.

It took time, but Brazil left their mark

Brazil entered this World Cup as tournament favorites and lived up to their expectations with a convincing 2-0 victory over Serbia in Group G. The scoreline rather flattered the Serbs, who found themselves suffocated by the South Americans’ swarming attack for most of the game. Serbia defended well and benefited from some exceptional saves from Vanja Milinkovic-Savic, while Brazil enjoyed 63% possession and a 22-5 advantage on aggregate (10-0 on target) .

A lot is expected of Brazil every time the team steps onto the pitch, regardless of the setting. As spiritual guardians of the game, Brazilians have an obligation to entertain. It is not enough to simply win; they must also entertain and win in style.

The Serbs did their best to prevent that from happening with their resolute defense. When Richarlison broke the deadlock in the 62nd minute with his first World Cup goal, a sense of relief washed over the Brazilians who had been thwarted at every turn by their opponents. Richarlison’s rebounding effort was scrappy, but he put Brazil on the board and gave them the lead they desperately needed.

With that out of the way, it was time for Brazil to put on a show and deliver what everyone had come to see: the kind of magic only they can produce. Richarlison was more than happy to oblige, scoring on a spectacular 12-yard volley that was pure highlight material. If Serbia’s hopes weren’t dashed by Richarlison’s scrappy opening goal, they certainly were after his spectacular second effort. Brazil collected three points and everyone was happy. Except for Serbia.

GOAL OF THE DAY

In the 73rd minute, Vinícius Júnior sent a ball through Serbia’s penalty area for team-mate Richarlison, who had his back to goal. Rather than trying to control the ball and spin, he cushioned it with his left foot and then rotated his body as he kicked the ball with his right foot with a fabulous 12-yard volley into the back. of the net beyond the reach of the Serb. goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic. Easily the focus of the tournament so far.

TIME OF DAY

What an emotional experience it must have been for Swiss striker Breel Embolo to score his first World Cup goal against Cameroon, his native nation and where his father still lives to this day.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Football writes these stories. I told Breel [Embolo]: ‘Cameroon are your friends, but they are also your adversaries.’ I am happy with his performance. – Switzerland coach Murat Yakin.

SIX STATS PACK

• Xherdan Shaqiri is the second Swiss player to have appeared in four World Cups (2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022) after Valon Behrami.

• Diego Godín (36 years and 281 days) is the oldest Uruguayan player to play in a World Cup, beating the previous record set by Obdulio Jacinto Varela in 1954 (36 years and 279 days).

• Cristiano Ronaldo is only the fifth man to have played in five different World Cups (2006-2022), after Antonio Carbajal and Rafael Márquez (Mexico), Lothar Matthäus (Germany) and Lionel Messi (Argentina).

• Portugal v Ghana was only the fourth World Cup game to score at least five goals after being tied 0-0 at half-time. The others were Poland 5-1 Peru (1982), Netherlands 2-3 Brazil (1994) and Belgium 3-2 Japan (2018).

• Brazil are unbeaten in their World Cup opener in their last 20 tournament appearances (including 17 wins).

• Not a single player received a red card on the opening day of this World Cup. This is the first time this has happened since the 1986 tournament.

Statistics provided by Opta

THREE STARS OF THE DAY

1) Richarlison, Brazil: The Tottenham striker now has nine goals in seven games for Brazil after netting a brace against Serbia.

2) Bruno Fernandes, Portugal: The Manchester United star netted two assists as he set up his side’s second and third goals with perfectly weighted balls.

3) Federico Valverde, Uruguay: He led his team’s spectacle in midfield on both the attacking and defensive side.

FOR FRIDAY

Qatar return to Group A when they take on Senegal (8:00 a.m. ET), with both nations looking to claim their first victory in this World Cup.

But the showpiece match of the day sees England take on the United States (2:00 p.m.) in Group B. These nations have met before at the World Cup. The Americans pulled off the biggest upset in tournament history when they beat the English 1-0 in 1950 in Brazil. They also played out a 1-1 draw at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.


John Molinaro is one of Canada’s leading soccer journalists, having covered the game for more than 20 years for multiple outlets including Sportsnet, CBC Sports and Sun Media. He is currently the editor of TFC Republic, a website dedicated to in-depth coverage of Toronto FC and Canadian soccer. TFC Republic is located here.

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