World Cup Daily: Unsung heroes shine in Portugal’s win

After each match day at the 2022 World Cup, Sportsnet.ca’s World Cup Daily blog will recap the day’s events and look ahead to the next day’s games.

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

THE RESULTS

Switzerland 1, Cameroon 0 at Al Wakrah: Game report || Game statistics

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

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

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

Canada at the 2022 World Cup

Canada returns to the World Cup for the first time since 1986, and Sportsnet’s reporters and insiders will have full coverage from Qatar on every stage.

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MAIN DISCUSSION POINTS

Unsung heroes shine in Portugal’s victory

All eyes were on Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo when he made his debut in Qatar just two days after officially joining Manchester United and he marked the occasion by making history. He converted from 12 meters in the 65th minute vs. Ghana after drawing a somewhat controversial penalty. In doing so, the Portuguese star became the first man in history to score in five different World Cups.

Ronaldo will grab the headlines from his side’s 3-2 win in Group H, but it was a trio of other players who were far more impressive tonight for Portugal. João Félix, 23, is someone who hasn’t quite lived up to his hype, but the Atlético Madrid star made the most of the opportunity as he scored a superb goal in the 78th minute to give Portugal a 2-1 lead.

Shortly after Rafael Leão, 23, showed why he was one of the best young stars to watch at this tournament. Leão came off the bench and took just three minutes to score on his World Cup debut when his first shot found its way into the far corner. His strike proved vital as Ghana scored a late goal to make things incredibly awkward for the Portuguese afterwards.

Both goals from Leão and Félix were set up by Bruno Fernandes, who produced graphic passes that split Ghana’s defence. Throughout the game, the Manchester United star served as Portugal’s chief architect with his excellent distribution and by linking up with his attacking partners. Had it not been for his efforts, the Portuguese might have met a different fate. Instead, they top the table in Group H largely thanks to the efforts of their unsung heroes.

It took a while, but Brazil left their mark

Brazil entered the World Cup as tournament favorites and lived up to their billing with a convincing 2-0 win over Serbia in Group G. The scoreline was more effective for the Serbs, who saw themselves suffocated by the South Americans’ strong attack for the majority of the game. Serbia defended well and benefited from some excellent saves from Vanja Milinkovic-Savic, as Brazil enjoyed 63 percent possession and a 22-5 advantage in total shots (10-0 on goal).

Much is expected of Brazil every time the team takes to the field, no matter what the setting. As the spiritual custodians of the game, Brazilians have a duty to entertain. It is not enough to simply work; they must also entertain and work in style.

The Serbs did their best to prevent that from happening with a focused defensive game. When Richarlison broke the deadlock in the 62nd minute with his first World Cup goal, it was a relief for the Brazilians who had been stopped at every turn by their opponents. Richarlison’s rebound was poor, but it put Brazil on the board and gave them the lead they so 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 magnificent volley from 12 yards that was pure highlight-reel stuff. If Serbia’s hopes weren’t dashed by Richarlison’s ugly opening goal, they certainly were after his spectacular second goal. Brazil got three points and everyone was happy. Except Serbia.

GOAL OF THE DAY

In the 73rd minute, Vinícius Júnior tipped the ball across Serbia’s penalty area for teammate Richarlison, who had his back to the goal. Instead of trying to control and deflect the ball, he edged it with his left foot and then turned his body as he smashed the ball with his right foot with a magnificent volley from 12 yards into the net past Serbia. goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic. Easily the goal of the tournament so far.

STATE OF THE DAY

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

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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 opponents.’ I’m happy with his performance.” – Switzerland coach Murat Yakin.

SIX PACK OF NUMBERS

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

• Diego Godín (36 years and 281 days) is Uruguay’s oldest player to play at the World Cup, breaking the previous record set by Obdulio Jacinto Varela in 1954 (36 years and 279 days).

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

• Portugal vs. Ghana became just the fourth World Cup side 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 matches at the tournament (with 17 wins).

• Not a single player got to see a red card during Matchday 1 of this World Cup. This is the first time it has happened since the 1986 tournament.

Statistics courtesy of Opta

THREE STARS OF THE DAY

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

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

3) Federico Valverde, Uruguay: He ran his team’s midfield performance both offensively and defensively.

THROUGH FRIDAY

Qatar returns to action in Group A when it hosts Senegal (8:00 a.m. ET), with both nations looking for their first win of this World Cup.

But in today’s camp game, England takes on the USA (2:00 p.m.) in Group B. These nations have met before at the World Cup. The Americans caused the biggest upset in the tournament’s history when they beat England 1-0 in 1950 in Brazil. They also drew 1-1 at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.


John Molinaro is one of Canada’s leading soccer journalists, covering the game for over 20 years for several media outlets, including Sportsnet, CBC Sports and Sun Media. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief of TFC Republic, a website dedicated to in-depth coverage of Toronto FC and Canadian soccer. TFC Republic is found here.

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