Portugal and Ghana played a thoroughly entertaining match that perhaps neither team deserved to lose. So, naturally, both lost -- Portugal claimed a 2-1 victory on the day, but the result eliminates each side in Group G, with Ghana consigned to last spot with one point and Portugal missing out on second place thanks to goal differential, allowing the USA to progress in the World Cup.
Cristiano Ronaldo -- and, by extension, Portugal -- very nearly started off the match with a bang. On the right wing, the Real Madrid star spotted Fatau Dauda off his line (or so he'll tell us) and laced a shot over his head from an impossible angle. Alas for Ronaldo, what would have been the goal of the tournament didn't get quite enough dip on it to drop below the crossbar, instead rebounding back into play for the Black Stars to clear. Perhaps that's just as well; I don't think anyone was looking forward to the "did he mean it?" debate after the match.
Portugal pressed the attack, coming within inches (again!) of going ahead when Ronaldo met a João Pereira cross with a powerful header only for Dauda to beat the effort over the bar, and the Black Stars' defence was eventually breached in the 30th minute through the unfortunate John Boye. João Moutinho juggled his way through the centre of the pitch, slashed a pass wide to Miguel Veloso, and the erstwhile left back's delivery was deflected by Boye's knee, flicking up to the crossbar, then to the post, and then to the back of the net for an own goal.
Ghana had been looking intermittently dangerous themselves. Asamoah Gyan was at the heart of most of their good work, coming close a number of times and also seeing what looked like a very reasonable penalty shout turned down after clashing with Bruno Alves in the left channel.
But despite their attacking intent, the Black Stars went into halftime 1-0 down. That situation would change after the break -- Ghana came out strong and soon drew level via Gyan. Kwadwo Asamoah got free on the left and fired in a cross with the outside of his boot, and Gyan was on hand to steer a header past Beto and put the game back to 1-1.
And Ghana, who now only needed a goal to claim second spot and advance, nearly made it 2-1 minutes later when Abdul Majeed Waris escaped his market on a corner. But instead of finding the goal, as looked briefly destined, he steered his header implausibly wide.
The momentum, however, was firmly in the Black Stars' favour, and it took a phenomenal last-ditch tackle from Pepe to prevent Waris racing onto a pass in the Portuguese box just after the hour mark. Ronaldo tried to turn things around via an amusing dive for a penalty, but his rolling around failed to amuse referee Nawaf Shukralla, and Ghana immediately went back on the attack.
If not for a goalkeeping howler, it's not at all out of the question that the Black Stars could have gone on to win the match. But a howler is exactly what they got -- Boye popped a cross into the air, and Dauda, challenged by Silvestre Varela, couldn't catch the ball, instead virtually throwing it at Ronaldo's feet. And Ronaldo didn't miss.
Portugal needed to make up a five-goal swing, and with 10 minutes left they were still down by three. There simply wasn't enough time to score the goals they needed, and try as they might they failed to find the goal again despite getting plenty of chances -- including a point-blank flick by Ronaldo -- in the game's dying moments.
Portugal starting lineup (4-3-3): Beto (Eduardo 89'); Miguel Veloso, Bruno Alves, Pepe, João Pereira (Silvestre Varela 61'); Rúben Amorim, William Carvalho, João Moutinho; Cristiano Ronaldo, Éder (Vieirinha 69'), Nani
Goals: Boye (OG) 30', Ronaldo 80'
Ghana starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Fatau Dauda; Kwadwo Asamoah, John Boye, Jonathan Mensah, Harrison Afful; Emmanuel Badu, Mohammed Rabiu (Afriyie Acquah 76'); André Ayew (Mubarak Wakaso 82'), Abdul Majeed Waris (Jordan Ayew 71'), Christian Atsu; Asamoah Gyan
Goals: Gyan 57'