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Saturday , March 25 2023

CR7 makes history, Portugal beat Ghana

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Embolo scores, doesn’t celebrate, Swiss pip Cameroon

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot his side’s opening goal against Ghana during a World Cup group H soccer match at the Stadium 974 in Doha, Qatar, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

DOHA, Qatar, Nov 24, (AP): Cristiano Ronaldo closed his eyes, took in a deep breath and then made World Cup history. The Portugal striker became the first male player to score at five World Cups with his 65th-minute penalty in a 3-2 win over Ghana on Thursday. Andre Ayew equalized for Ghana eight minutes later, but Joao Felix regained the lead for Portugal in the 78th and Rafael Leao added a third. Osman Bukari reduced Ghana’s deficit in the 89th.

The 37-year-old Ronaldo was looking to showcase his talents to potential new clubs after having his contract terminated at Manchester United this week. After wasting two good chances in the first half, he tumbled under a challenge by Ghana defender Mohammed Salisu to earn a penalty. Wheeling away after the ball struck the back of the net, a smiling Ronaldo performed his usual leap and swivel in the air – the crowd roared his trademark “SI-UUU” as he did the pirouette – before getting mobbed by teammates. He has now scored in every World Cup since his first in 2006 and has a record 118 international goals. Another favored team has failed to impress in the early stages of the World Cup.

This time it was South Korea holding South American power Uruguay to a 0-0 draw , a result that probably favors the Asian team. The draw at Education City Stadium was yet another early World Cup match with a surprising result. Argentina and Germany both lost their opening games in major upsets. This one hinted at being another. Uruguay coach Diego Alonso said he was satisfied, and so did South Korea counterpart Paulo Bento. Alonso sounded less convincing. “I’m more than happy with the result,” Alonso said. “I’m sure that this group stage will be determined by the last match. We all know the second game is key, and so is the third one. But this will not affect whether we qualify of not.” Uruguay will next face Portugal in Group H while South Korea play Ghana, with both games on Monday.

The top two teams in the group will advance to the round of 16. South Korea, with forward Son Heung-min wearing a mask to protect a broken left eye socket, always looked the more likely to score against the more experienced Uruguayans. The South Koreans were quicker, pressing from the opening whistle. Many South Korean fans wore Batman-like masks in solidarity with Son, who was injured on Nov. 2 in a Champions League match playing for English club Tottenham. He had a few early chances but seemed to tire in the second half. “He (Son) had a serious injury,” Bento said. “He was inactive for a considerable amount of time. He could only get back with the team in the recent days. And of course it’s natural after an injury that it will take time some time to adapt. But I think overall we had a good performance.”

In a match with few clear scoring chances and South Korea often in control, Uruguay had the best opportunities to score: Diego Godin hit the post with a header in the 43rd minute and Federico Valverde hit it in the 89th. Alonso started an attacking lineup with Luis Suarez, Darwin Nunez and Facundo Pellistri up front, and with Valverde and Matias Vecino in midfield. But they seldom had the ball at the start. South Korea pressed forward early and Son excited the crowd every time he touched the ball, but he managed only one threatening attack in the first half. South Korea always looked quicker than Uruguay, but not necessarily the more dangerous. The team’s best chance came in the 34th minute when Hwang Ui-jo sailed a closerange attempt over the crossbar. As the second half wore on, Uruguay began to take more possession but always seemed cautious, taking less initiative despite having the more experienced players. Son went down in a heap early in the second half with Martin Caceres getting the first yellow card of the match. Alonso sent in Edinson Cavani for Suarez in 64th minute as the pace of the match slowed until Valverde hit the post in the final minutes. “In the first 20 minutes, we struggled against Korea,” Alonso said. “We couldn’t take the ball from them. We couldn’t get any pressure and lost precision.

Switzerland’s Breel Embolo, left, celebrates after scoring his side’s opening goal during the World Cup group G soccer match between Switzerland and Cameroon, at the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Swiss pip Cameroon

Breel Embolo’s goal lifted Switzerland to a 1-0 win over Cameroon at the World Cup on Thursday and he kept his promise not to celebrate scoring against the country where he was born. The Swiss forward from Yaounde struck with a right-foot shot in the 48th minute, standing all alone eight meters (yards) out in the middle of the goalmouth to take Xherdan Shaqiri’s low pass. Embolo then pursed his lips in a wry smile and held his arms out wide, before raising his hands in a gesture of apology as teammates rushed to him near the penalty spot. He pointed toward Swiss fans behind the goal where he had scored then to Cameroon fans at the opposite corner of Al Janoub stadium.

The 25-year-old forward left Cameroon with his family when he was five. They spent time in France before settling in Switzerland, the country he is now representing at a second World Cup. Though an African-born player scored, teams from Africa are now scoreless through the four games they have played at this World Cup. All have played higher-ranked teams, and Morocco and Tunisia earned 0-0 draws, respectively against Croatia and Denmark. Cameroon’s streak of losses at World Cup finals tournaments extended to eight games dating back to 2002. In the move for Embolo to score, it was too easy for the Swiss to pass the ball quickly through the Cameroon defensive lines from left fl ank to right. The fast Swiss start to the second half contrasted with a lack of first-half urgency that could hardly be explained by the 1 p.m. kickoff – one of only seven games in Qatar being played entirely in daylight.

The heat peaked at 29 Celsius (84 Fahrenheit), humidity was low and most of the playing area was shaded. Cameroon wasted a clear scoring chance to take control in the 10th minute. A long, straight pass past Switzerland’s central defenders led to Karl Toko Ekambi firing a half-volley shot high over the bar from just 10 meters (yards). Cameroon exerted little pressure trying to level the game. Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa’s header in the 66th was aimed directly at goalkeeper Yann Sommer who saved easily. In the next play, a Swiss move down the right flank almost repeated the goal but goalkeeper Andre Onana saved from Ruben Vargas. Cameroon great Roger Milla was paraded on the field before the game. Fans were shown a video montage of his goals at the 1990 World Cup where Cameroon became the first African team ever to advance to the quarterfinals. Milla was joined by Samuel Eto’o, Cameroon’s greatest player who now heads its soccer federation. Eto’o scored the only goal when Cameroon last won at the World Cup – 1-0 against Saudi Arabia in 2002.

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