The madness ends here then, and by the finish it all made perfect sense. An own goal from John Boye and an awful clanger from goalkeeper Fatawu Dauda sent Ghana out of the tournament but you knew from before kick-off that if anyone was going to beat them, it was themselves.
After boycotting training in Brasilia on Tuesday over the non-payment of appearance fees, they announced at a Wednesday press conference that the nation’s president had ordered a plane to be loaded with $3m in cash and flown straight to them.
The questions and answers thereafter ranged from talk of mercenaries to the trouble with African bank accounts while winger Christian Atsu broke down laughing when talking about how he was going to stuff the notes into a bag for safety. It was pointed out that their main base at this tournament is in the most dangerous city in Brazil but by yesterday morning Boye himself was seen on local television at the team hotel jumping about and kissing wads of money.
Portugal 2 Ghana 1 player ratings
Portugal 2 Ghana 1 player ratings
Was challenged very rarely but was up to the challenge when called upon. A decent afternoon’s work. 6
2/22 Joao Pereira
Raced forward at every given opportunity and gave Portugal an attacking threat down the right flank. An exciting display. 7
3/22 Miguel Veloso
Struggled with the aerial battle from set-plays but delivered an otherwise composed performance. 6
4/22 William Carvalho
It isn’t difficult to see why a host of Premier League giants have been scouting Willian Carvalho. A mature outing for his country. 7
While volatile in a Real Madrid shirt, Pepe seemed much more composed for Portugal this afternoon. Comfortable in possession and tough into the tackle, this was a typically impressive shift. 7
6/22 Bruno Alves
Strived to get forward whenever possible but ultimately failed to make his mark in the final third. 6
Delivering a display as skilful as it was commanding, this was an efficient and ordered performance from the Benfica man. 7
8/22 Joao Moutinho
A real thorn in Ghana’s side, Joao Moutinho’s trickery made him dangerous every time Portugal picked up the ball. Alongside his more impotent teammates, this was an admirable performance. 7
After a series of attacking displays for Braga, it was surprising to see Eder operate quite so defensively. A quiet afternoon. 6
While impressive in the opening stages, with a turn of pace which frightened the Ghana defence, the much maligned Manchester United winger struggled in the second half. 6
11/22 Cristiano Ronaldo
A constant menace, the Real Madrid superstar carried Portugal for much of the game. Regularly frustrated by Fatawu Dauda in the Ghana net, he finally found a way through courtesy of an almost comical error from the Ghana keeper. 8
12/22 Fatawu Dauda
Made a series of excellent saves which included the stunning point blank stop from Cristiano Ronaldo’s first-half header. Gifted the Real Madrid man an easy goal later on, though, which will ultimately steal the morning headlines.
13/22 Harrison Afful
Foolishly booked, Harrison Afful was treading on eggshells for the rest of the match. 6
14/22 Kwadwo Asamoah
Will be remembered for his majestic ball which set-up Asamoah Gyan’s second half goal and rightfully so. An outlet which Ghana used to build a series of attacks upon. 7
15/22 Mohammed Rabiu
Proved why clubs in the Russian Premier League find it so difficult to get past him, Portugal didn’t have the answer. 7
16/22 John Boye
Bitterly unlucky to concede an own goal but, on reflection, will most likely conclude that he should have done much better. 6
17/22 John Mensah
British audiences may remember John Mensah from his loan spell with Sunderland last year but this was a decidedly timid display. 6
18/22 Christian Atsu
After an encouraging season on loan at Vitesse, from Chelsea, this was another decent performance from Ghana’s young midfield star. 7
19/22 Emmanuel Badu
Desperately unlucky not to get on the score sheet, after glancing an effort just wide, Emmanuel Badu may think that he could have done more. 6
20/22 Asamoah Gyan
Became the highest scoring African at the World Cup after a series of poor misses. Unlike his strike past Beto in the Portugal net, however, those misses won’t be noted in the history books. 7
21/22 Majeed Waris
Guilty of an awful miss in the second half, Majeed Waris had the potential to break Portugal down but failed to live up to expectations. 6
22/22 Andre Ayew
Used his fearsome pace to good effect while also coming inside and shooting on many occasions. A good afternoon’s work. 7
It was so bizarre and shambolic it even overshadowed the fact that Kevin-Prince Boateng was sent home for “vulgar verbal insults” directed at coach Kwesi Appiah while sources say Sulley Muntari’s removal from the squad was after he slapped a Football Association member during a meeting that got way out of control. Little wonder then that for an hour of this defeat it was clear from their play that most of them did not want to be here, but it was also evident throughout that Portugal simply are not good enough.
Ghana started like a team whose heads were already on holidays and whose bodies would soon be following, even if Harrison Afful was giving width and Asamoah Gyan was providing power. But it was Cristiano Ronaldo who was most dangerous in those opening stages. He looked more menacing in that spell than he has across a tournament where even he could not carry both his knee injury issues and his team. On 11 minutes he had a free-kick batted away, on 18 minutes he got on the end of a Ruben Amorim cross but was again denied. And that would become the story of his game.
At least his side did take the lead just after the half hour mark. Miguel Veloso’s cross looked too shallow but at the near post it bounced in front of Boye, came off his knee and flew in off the underside of the crossbar. The defender had been at fault for both goals in the game against the United States and nearly had a second own goal here too. But for long spells he looked as likely to score as Portugal, who never truly believed they could claw back the goal difference on the United States to take second spot in the group and head to the second round.
On that count, the blame can be shared around. Nani was again anonymous here, Eder was playing too deep for a striker, while Joao Moutinho was once more a major disappointment. Coming into this tournament, there were comparisons with Xavi but in exiting he had as much of an influence on it as his Spanish counterpart. The defence never looked assured either when Ghana moved the ball down the flanks and such a move led to the equaliser just shy of the hour mark.
Kwadwo Asamoah provided the most audacious of crosses with the outside of the boot and a Gyan header saw him become the top-scoring African in World Cup history. For a few minutes it was like a switch had been flicked as news came through that Germany were ahead and one more goal would see Ghana advance.
Majeed Waris had a great opportunity from six yards out, Asamoah shot wide and the side came to life with the sort of pace and power that had seen them dominate against the Americans and hustle the Germans until the very end. It briefly made you think they were too good to go out at this stage, but just as they’d awoken, they again slept. From there on in it was just tension rather than quality as both sides were swimming against the tide.
And even that tension was taken away 10 minutes from time as Ronaldo netted the winner. A deflected cross looped high into the air, Dauda inexplicably chose to flap at the ball rather than catch it cleanly, and his parry dropped straight to Ronaldo for an easy finish. To be fair, the World Player of the Year had other chances in those closing stages but could not convert. It summed up his World Cup and Portugal’s. Down, and now out.