Wednesday's FIFA friendlies avalanche produced more telling results than routine ones. Some final score lines were downright revelations, peeks at what may come this summer in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. In a series of articles we dissect the significance of 16 of those matches.
Portugal 5, Cameroon 1
Cristiano Ronaldo's Portuguese National Football Team demolished fellow World Cup bound Cameroon at Leiria, Portugal on Wednesday. Cristiano and teammates took apart their weaker opposition much like Brazil demolished their hosts South Africa, the same day.
Ronaldo became Portugal's all-time leading scorer with 49 tallies from 110 games. After the match he told Portugal's RTP television: "I don't worry about breaking records, it is something that happens naturally, with lots of [work and] dedication."
The Portuguese team played on a rough field with many lumps, dips, and patches of grassless pitch. But absent those obstacles, and the fact that Os Navegadores (the Navigators) needed most of the first half to brush off some staleness and get fully into a fluid gear, the game was the expected blowout.
Once the teams were playing their respective games, it was a straightforward affair with Ronaldo scoring a bracketing brace (21' and 83') and Raul Meireles (66'), Fabio Coentrao (67'), and Edinho (76') adding their names to a score sheet only marred by Vincent Aboubakar's 43rd minute respite (http://bit.ly/1fcyZ5j).
What was once thought of as a potential resurgence of a team with some vetern international superstars seemed, in this game, to be a romantic vision. Samuel Eto'o and Alex Song, among others, did not seem to be able to muster much resistance to Ronaldo's troops.
Two things of note here were the fact that so many other scorers came to the fore for Portugal and that Cameroon's goal uncovered a suspect defense. But what is equally important to mention is that the Portuguese goals were easy affairs, the type few other World Cup opponents would allow and that their own Cup bound defenders might not have been as sharp toward the last two minutes of a half they had been leading for nearly half an hour.
This match was no challenge for Portugal. Much like the Brazilian game it was a chance for coach Paulo Bento to try some players out and to bring his team together for an ego-booster. The revelation came on the Cameroon side, as Croatia's and Brazil's path to the Round of 16 now seems more foretold, given the weaknesses displayed today by Mexico and Cameroon.
Montenegro 1, Ghana 0
This game was a booster for the USA as they saw their World Cup 2010 Round of 16 nemesis beaten by a Montenegrin team that did not qualify out of European competition. With Germany and Portugal already prohibitive favorites to walk into the Round of 16 from Group G, the USA could only hope that a victory over this African opponent and ties against their betters might just give them a chance to push through. Then again the Team USA performance against Ukraine was not boost.
Ghana must have been looking for a test but they certainly were not planning on a loss. Given, the early goal was a cold shower on the visitors, but with 89 minutes to go and a 37 to 52 disparity in FIFA Rankings between the losers and winner, Ghana should have done better (http://bit.ly/1eej7uN).
Dejan Damjanovic's opening minute penalty score began the African's sorry night at Podgorica, Montenegro, and it never really got any better. Opportunities did go begging, at times for both sides, but in the end the hosts proved capable of keeping their World Cup bound visitors off the scoreboard. The revelation here was how much different this team looked than the 2010 edition and how much more of an easy group this now seems for the group's stronger participants.