And with their exit, the most bizarre story of the World Cup comes to a close in tame fashion.
The side had arrived here earlier in the week with so much promise and potential that you thought they could still make the second round.
But after boycotting training in the capital on Tuesday, a Wednesday press conference was shambolic. Following questions over trouble in the camp because of the non-payment of appearance fees, it emerged the nation’s president had chartered a plane to Brazil with three million dollars in cash on board.
Thereafter, discussion ranged from mercenaries to how they’d keep so much money safe, with one American journalist baffled when asking why they didn’t just transfer the money electronically. It was pointed out too that their main base at this tournament is in Maceio, the most dangerous city in Brazil and fifth most dangerous on earth.
Yet by yesterday morning, defender John Boye was seen on local television at the team hotel kissing wads of cash, and all this after the experience of having their hotel rooms robbed at the last World Cup. It was so bizarre it left little room to discuss the players that had been sent home. Kevin Prince Boateng was booted out for “vulgar verbal insults” directed at manager Kwesi Appiah while 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 the coach said he hadn’t slept in days and little wonder that for an hour of this defeat it was clear from their play that most of them didn’t want to be here. Granted, it was also clear throughout that Portugal simply aren’t good enough to remain here.
At least Cristiano Ronaldo came to life for a little while and in parts he looked more menacing than he has across a tournament where even he couldn’t carry both his knee issues and his team. And at least his side did take the lead on half an hour. 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 net as Portugal did.
Kwadwo Asamoah whipped in a memorable cross with the outside of his foot and Asamoah Gyan became the top-scoring African in World Cup history via a header. He deserved it too as he wasn’t just his side’s finest player, but the best in show. With that, Ghana briefly roared to life, needing just one more goal to continue their colourful and chaotic adventure. Majeed Waris was only six yards out when he headed wide but when they great opening flashed wide, they seemed to die a death.
There was little quality and any tension was ripped from the game when Portugal won it 10 minutes from time. A deflected cross looped high into the air, Fatawu Dauda flapped at the ball, and his parry dropped straight to Ronaldo for an easy finish.
PORTUGAL: Beto (Eduardo 89), Joao Pereira (Varela 61), Pepe, Bruno Alves, Veloso, Joao Moutinho, William Carvalho, Ruben Amorim, Nani, Ronaldo, Eder (Vieirinha 69).
GHANA: Dauda, Afful, Boye, Mensah, Asamoah, Atsu, Rabiu (Afriyie 76), Agyemang-Badu, Andre Ayew (Wakaso 81), Waris (Jordan Ayew 71), Gyan.
Referee: Nawaf Shukralla (Bahrain).