December 3, 2022

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Wayne Rooney was not surprised by Manchester United’s decision to part company with Cristiano Ronaldo, saying the club had “no other choice”.
Ronaldo’s United departure seemed inevitable when he gave an explosive interview to Piers Morgan, saying the club had “betrayed” him and declaring he did not respect manager Erik ten Hag.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner also used the interview to attack several former United players who had criticised his conduct this season.  
Rooney labelled Ronaldo’s actions an “unwanted distraction” after he was suspended by United for refusing to come on as a substitute in last month’s win over Tottenham, comments the Portugal forward subsequently said were rooted in jealousy. 
On Tuesday, United announced Ronaldo had left the club by mutual agreement, a decision Rooney believes was inevitable.
Speaking to Sports 18 following the club’s announcement, Rooney said: “Am I surprised? No. 
“There was no other choice, but that’s a shame because he’s been a fantastic servant to the club. I wish him the best wherever he goes.”
Ronaldo leaves United having scored 145 goals across two spells at Old Trafford, though he only found the net once for the Red Devils in the Premier League this campaign.

Hansi Flick knows Germany are now “under pressure” but would not accept their focus on the OneLove campaign as an excuse for their defeat to Japan.
Germany lost 2-1 at Khalifa International Stadium on Wednesday in a match that appeared set to be second billing to a demonstration ahead of kick-off prior to the second-half turnaround.
Die Mannschaft captain Manuel Neuer did not go through with wearing the OneLove armband, which promotes “inclusion and sends a message against discrimination of any kind”, with those planning to wear the armband having been threatened with sanctions by FIFA.
Instead, Germany’s players lined up for their pre-match team photo with their hands over their mouths, saying FIFA was “denying us a voice”.
Much of the attention around the match was on this even after Ilkay Gundogan opened the scoring from the penalty spot, but goals from Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano dealt Germany a stunning defeat.
Asked if their protest had contributed to a below-par display, Flick replied: “No. We’re not looking for excuses. That would be too easy.
“I said it ahead of the game, Japan have a strong team, great players with good technique, good tactics. They are well trained and they showed their strengths today. They played very efficiently.
“I would have liked to see that from my team, but we can’t make excuses. We made too many mistakes.”
These errors were “mistakes we should never make in a World Cup”, Flick said, with the second goal that condemned them to “a great disappointment” particularly sloppy.
Germany certainly cannot afford to be distracted as they head into their second match against Spain, as Flick added: “We’ll analyse this game as we always do.
“Spain is a different team, it is not Japan, and we’ll have a different game plan.
“Of course, now with this defeat, we are under pressure, no question, and we’re to blame. We can only blame ourselves.
“We have to make sure we can come out of this. We need to be courageous and decisive; we need the aggression in the game that’s necessary at the World Cup.”
Japan may now be in a stronger position, but they are likewise staying focused on their second group game versus Costa Rica.
“This is a big win, but it is not the end, obviously, so we were not going to get too happy or too sad,” said coach Hajime Moriyasu. “We’re going to prepare for the next game.”
Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda added: “We would like to go to the quarter-final. That is our goal.
“This is our first step, and we are very pleased to have won. But our next game is against Costa Rica and we have to do our best again.”
Thomas Muller described Germany’s shock World Cup defeat to Japan as “ridiculous”, but acknowledged Die Mannschaft’s woeful defending meant they did not deserve a victory.
Germany looked set to make a positive start to their Group E campaign when Ilkay Gundogan put them ahead from the spot on Wednesday, but a remarkable comeback from Japan stunned the four-time winners.
Bundesliga pair Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano came off the bench to score in a famous win for the Samurai Blue, leaving Germany under huge pressure ahead of Sunday’s meeting with Spain.
Having lost their opening game just once in their first 18 World Cup participations (W13 D4), Germany have now started with a defeat at consecutive tournaments. 
Speaking to ARD after the reverse, Muller said: “In terms of feeling, we actually played a good game over long stretches. 
“Of course, a good game in football is also characterised by the fact that you convert the chances and superiority into goals. 
“The effectiveness at both ends didn’t match. It’s ridiculous that we are left with a defeat. 
“But at the end of the day, when you see what we’re leaving behind us and how we conceded the goals at the end, you would say in football jargon that it’s not an undeserved loss.”
Germany captain Manuel Neuer, meanwhile, lamented the team’s slow start to the second half in his own post-match interview.
“I’m totally frustrated and upset that we gave up the game,” Neuer said. “That was more than unnecessary. We created a lot of chances to score, so luck and bad luck go hand in hand. 
“The imperative that we wanted to score the second goal was perhaps missing and we brought Japan back into the game. 
“After the break, we didn’t have that flow of play any more, didn’t play with the self-confidence we had in the first half. 
“It was a bit more difficult because they started higher, but we still have to play well.”
Germany’s defeat was their first after scoring the opening goal in a World Cup match since a shock quarter-final loss to Bulgaria at the 1994 tournament, ending their run of 25 such games without losing.
Hansi Flick’s side must now bid to bounce back against Luis Enrique’s men next time out, as they look to avoid consecutive group-stage World Cup exits.
Portugal will not be distracted by the furore surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo as they look to get their World Cup campaign up and running, says Ruben Dias.
Ronaldo’s inflammatory interview with Piers Morgan has been the hot topic ahead of Portugal’s opening Group H match in Qatar against Ghana on Thursday at Stadium 974.
Portugal’s captain insisted no issues have been caused in the squad, despite what seemed a frosty exchange with his now ex-Manchester United team-mate Bruno Fernandes on the latter’s arrival to the team’s training camp. 
Centre-back Dias, however, shrugged off any chance of Ronaldo’s situation proving to be a distraction.
“I don’t think Cristiano’s affairs have put a dent whatsoever into what we are trying to achieve here, so I don’t have much to say about it,” Dias said in a press conference on Tuesday.
“I think we’ve talked about this enough, there’s not much to add. As a team we will focus on the World Cup now and not other issues.
“We’re focused on winning against Ghana. The best way to win is focus on one game at a time and that’s the best way to have a successful path ahead of us.”
Progressing from Group H will not be a simple task for Portugal.
Uruguay and South Korea are the other teams in the group, while Ghana head into their fourth World Cup with a talented squad, albeit one that is the youngest in the tournament.
Inaki Williams, who has switched allegiance from Spain, is a threat up top, with Mohammed Kudus and Thomas Partey enjoying fine seasons with Ajax and Arsenal respectively.
Indeed, since the start of detailed Opta World Cup data, Ghana have averaged the most shots per game in the World Cup among all teams competing in 2022 (19).
“Ghana are physically a strong team, technically as well. They have footballers who are playing at the top level in Europe,” added Dias.
“We are aware we are facing a very dangerous team. We’re focused on what we are doing, but aware of the difficulties that Ghana will bring.”
Portugal – Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo loves silencing his critics, and what better stage to do it? The 37-year-old is looking to become the first player to score at five different World Cup finals.
All of Ronaldo’s seven goals in the tournament have come in the group stage. He has scored the most goals of any player in the competition who is yet to find the net in the knockout stages (six such appearances without a goal).
Ghana – Mohammed Kudus
Kudus revealed earlier this week that he came close to joining Everton in August, but if the 22-year-old carries his club form into the World Cup, he might well be the subject of interest from bigger teams in January.
He has scored 10 goals for Ajax this term, with four of those coming in the Champions League, from six appearances. 
With Williams ahead of him and Partey behind, Kudus could be one to watch in Qatar.
PREDICTIONS
Portugal are heavy favourites based on Opta’s predictor model, which gives Fernando Santos’ side a 69.6 per cent chance of victory.
Ghana, who lost 2-1 to Portugal in the 2014 World Cup, are handed an 11.9 per cent chance, with the draw at 18.5.
Nov 20, 2022 Friendlies
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