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Favourites Brazil kick off World Cup bid as Ronaldo and Portugal enter fray

Favourites Brazil kick off World Cup bid as Ronaldo and Portugal enter fray

November 23, 2022 (AFP)

Favourites Brazil begin their bid to win a sixth World Cup on Thursday when they take on Serbia, while Cristiano Ronaldo will hope to put his acrimonious departure from Manchester United behind him as Portugal enter the fray against Ghana.

Brazil will be wary of a dangerous Serbian side when the teams meet at Lusail Stadium, especially after seeing Argentina suffer a shock defeat against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday at the same venue and Germany lose to Japan on Wednesday.

The Brazilians have arrived in Qatar hoping for a repeat of what happened at the last World Cup held in Asia two decades ago, when they won their fifth title in Japan.

Tite's side can rely on a Neymar who has been in ominous form for Paris Saint-Germain, but the world's most expensive player is surrounded by other outstanding attackers ready to share the burden, such as Real Madrid duo Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo.

"In my opinion these players will help Neymar because they can divide up the responsibility and create space for him," said veteran Brazil skipper Thiago Silva.

"The atmosphere in the squad is super healthy. The mixture of young players and more experienced ones creates a great connection," he added.

However, Serbia appear a more dangerous proposition than four years ago, when they also faced Brazil in the group stage but lost 2-0 and went home in the first round.

"We are afraid of nobody in the world, not even Brazil," insisted Serbia coach Dragan Stojkovic, who was hopeful that prolific Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic would be fit for the Group G opener.

Portugal 'absolutely focused'

Switzerland and Cameroon kick off Thursday's action in the same section at Al Janoub Stadium at 1:00 PM (1000 GMT).

Swiss skipper Granit Xhaka indicated his side would not copy Germany's mouth-covering protest against FIFA's stance on rainbow-themed armbands.

The Swiss were one of the seven European teams whose captains were to wear the armband in support of LGBTQ people at the tournament in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.

Germany made the gesture as they lined up for their team photo before their shock 2-1 defeat to Japan after they abandoned plans for skipper Manuel Neuer to wear the armband following threats of on-field disciplinary action by FIFA.

"I don't think we need to do anything as the Swiss team. We need to respect the rules and concentrate on our football, that's all I intend to do," Xhaka said on Wednesday.

Ronaldo's preparation for what is surely his last World Cup has been overshadowed by his bitter departure from Old Trafford.

It was announced late on Tuesday that the 37-year-old would leave United with "immediate effect" in the wake of an outspoken interview with a British broadcaster in which he said he felt "betrayed" by the club and had no respect for manager Erik ten Hag.

His club form this season has been poor but he is still hoping for a final shot at World Cup glory and Portugal will be expected to start with a victory at Stadium 974 by Doha's waterfront against a Ghana side who sit 61st in the FIFA rankings.

Portugal coach Fernando Santos claimed that Ronaldo's split from United had not been discussed by the players.

"The players are absolutely focused, with a great spirit, convinced about what they have to do, what their objectives are and realistic about the challenges they are facing," Santos said.

"Winning a competition of this magnitude is difficult."

Son to play for Korea

Portugal and Ghana are in Group H with Uruguay and South Korea, who meet in Thursday's other match.

Son Heung-min will be able to play for South Korea despite wearing a mask after facial surgery.

The Tottenham Hotspur attacker and Korean skipper had surgery earlier this month after suffering a fracture around his left eye during a UEFA Champions League game.

"Son can play and will be able to play," said coach Paulo Bento.

Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano scored as Japan came from behind to beat Germany in Group E, while Spain started their campaign with a 7-0 demolition of Costa Rica with Ferran Torres scoring twice for the 2010 World Cup winners.

Belgium also started in winning fashion in Wednesday's late match as Michy Batshuayi's goal gave them a 1-0 victory over Canada, for whom Alphonso Davies had a penalty saved.

Group F rivals Morocco drew 0-0 with 2018 beaten finalists Croatia.


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Group Stage

Group A
Nov 20, 11:00amAl Khor
Qatar 0 - 2 Ecuador
Nov 21, 11:00amDoha
Senegal 0 - 2 Netherlands
Nov 25, 8:00amDoha
Qatar 1 - 3 Senegal
Nov 25, 11:00amAl Rayyan
Netherlands 1 - 1 Ecuador
Nov 29, 10:00amAl Rayyan
Ecuador 1 - 2 Senegal
Nov 29, 10:00amAl Khor
Netherlands 2 - 0 Qatar
Group B
Nov 21, 8:00amAl Rayyan
England 6 - 2 Iran
Nov 21, 2:00pmAl Rayyan
USA 1 - 1 Wales
Nov 25, 5:00amAl Rayyan
Wales 0 - 2 Iran
Nov 25, 2:00pmAl Rayyan
England 0 - 0 USA
Nov 29, 2:00pmDoha
Iran 0 - 1 USA
Nov 29, 2:00pmAl Rayyan
Wales 0 - 3 England
Group C
Nov 22, 5:00amLusail
Argentina 1 - 2 Saudi Arabia
Nov 22, 11:00amDoha
Mexico 0 - 0 Poland
Nov 26, 8:00amAl Rayyan
Poland 2 - 0 Saudi Arabia
Nov 26, 2:00pmLusail
Argentina 2 - 0 Mexico
Nov 30, 2:00pmDoha
Poland vs Argentina
Nov 30, 2:00pmLusail
Saudi Arabia vs Mexico
Group D
Nov 22, 8:00amAl Rayyan
Denmark 0 - 0 Tunisia
Nov 22, 2:00pmAl Wakrah
France 4 - 1 Australia
Nov 26, 5:00amAl Wakrah
Tunisia 0 - 1 Australia
Nov 26, 11:00amDoha
France 2 - 1 Denmark
Nov 30, 10:00amAl Wakrah
Australia vs Denmark
Nov 30, 10:00amAl Rayyan
Tunisia vs France
Group E
Nov 23, 8:00amAl Rayyan
Germany 1 - 2 Japan
Nov 23, 11:00amDoha
Spain 7 - 0 Costa Rica
Nov 27, 5:00amAl Rayyan
Japan 0 - 1 Costa Rica
Nov 27, 2:00pmAl Khor
Spain 1 - 1 Germany
Dec 1, 2:00pmAl Khor
Costa Rica vs Germany
Dec 1, 2:00pmAl Rayyan
Japan vs Spain
Group F
Nov 23, 5:00amAl Khor
Morocco 0 - 0 Croatia
Nov 23, 2:00pmAl Rayyan
Belgium 1 - 0 Canada
Nov 27, 8:00amDoha
Belgium 0 - 2 Morocco
Nov 27, 11:00amAl Rayyan
Croatia 4 - 1 Canada
Dec 1, 10:00amDoha
Canada vs Morocco
Dec 1, 10:00amAl Rayyan
Croatia vs Belgium
Group G
Nov 24, 5:00amAl Wakrah
Switzerland 1 - 0 Cameroon
Nov 24, 2:00pmLusail
Brazil 2 - 0 Serbia
Nov 28, 5:00amAl Wakrah
Cameroon 3 - 3 Serbia
Nov 28, 11:00amDoha
Brazil 1 - 0 Switzerland
Dec 2, 2:00pmLusail
Cameroon vs Brazil
Dec 2, 2:00pmDoha
Serbia vs Switzerland
Group H
Nov 24, 8:00amAl Rayyan
Uruguay 0 - 0 Korea Republic
Nov 24, 11:00amDoha
Portugal 3 - 2 Ghana
Nov 28, 8:00amAl Rayyan
Korea Republic 2 - 3 Ghana
Nov 28, 2:00pmLusail
Portugal 2 - 0 Uruguay
Dec 2, 10:00amAl Wakrah
Ghana vs Uruguay
Dec 2, 10:00amAl Rayyan
Korea Republic vs Portugal
Knockout Stage

Round of 16
Dec 3, 10:00amAl Rayyan
Netherlands vs USA
Dec 3, 2:00pmAl Rayyan
1st Group C vs 2nd Group D
Dec 4, 10:00amDoha
1st Group D vs 2nd Group C
Dec 4, 2:00pmAl Khor
England vs Senegal
Round of 16
Dec 5, 10:00amAl Wakrah
1st Group E vs 2nd Group F
Dec 5, 2:00pmDoha
1st Group G vs 2nd Group H
Dec 6, 10:00amAl Rayyan
1st Group F vs 2nd Group E
Dec 6, 2:00pmLusail
1st Group H vs 2nd Group G
Quarter Final
Dec 9, 10:00amAl Rayyan
Winner Match 53 vs Winner Match 54
Dec 9, 2:00pmLusail
Winner Match 49 vs Winner Match 50
Dec 10, 10:00amDoha
Winner Match 55 vs Winner Match 56
Dec 10, 2:00pmAl Khor
Winner Match 51 vs Winner Match 52
Semi-final
Dec 13, 2:00pmLusail
Winner Quarter-final 1 vs Winner Quarter-final 2
Dec 14, 2:00pmAl Khor
Winner Quarter-final 3 vs Winner Quarter-final 4
Third place match
Dec 17, 10:00amAl Rayyan
Loser Semi-final 1 vs Loser Semi-final 2
Final