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

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Favourites Brazil start their bid to win a sixth World Cup on Thursday once they tackle Serbia, whereas Cristiano Ronaldo will hope to place his acrimonious departure from Manchester United behind him as Portugal enter the fray in opposition to Ghana.

Brazil will likely be cautious of a harmful Serbian facet when the groups meet at Lusail Stadium, particularly after seeing Argentina endure a shock defeat in opposition to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday on the identical venue and Germany lose to Japan on Wednesday.

The Brazilians have arrived in Qatar hoping for a repeat of what occurred on the final World Cup held in Asia 20 years in the past, once they gained their fifth title in Japan.

Tite’s facet can depend on a Neymar who has been in ominous kind for Paris Saint-Germain, however the world’s most costly participant is surrounded by different excellent attackers able to share the burden, comparable to 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,” stated 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 seem a extra harmful proposition than 4 years in the past, when additionally they confronted Brazil within the group stage however misplaced 2-Zero and went home within the first spherical.

“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 could be match for the Group G opener.

– Portugal ‘completely targeted’ –

Switzerland and Cameroon kick off Thursday’s motion in the identical part at Al Janoub Stadium at 1:00 PM (1000 GMT).

Swiss skipper Granit Xhaka indicated his facet wouldn’t copy Germany’s mouth-covering protest in opposition to FIFA’s stance on rainbow-themed armbands.

The Swiss had been one of many seven European groups whose captains had been to put on the armband in assist of LGBTQ individuals on the match in Qatar, the place homosexuality is prohibited.

Germany made the gesture as they lined up for his or her group photograph earlier than their shock 2-1 defeat to Japan after they deserted plans for skipper Manuel Neuer to put on the armband following threats of on-field disciplinary motion 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 stated on Wednesday.

Ronaldo’s preparation for what is unquestionably his final World Cup has been overshadowed by his bitter departure from Old Trafford.

It was introduced late on Tuesday that the 37-year-old would depart United with “immediate effect” within the wake of an outspoken interview with a British broadcaster wherein he stated he felt “betrayed” by the membership and had no respect for supervisor Erik ten Hag.

His membership kind this season has been poor however he’s nonetheless hoping for a ultimate shot at World Cup glory and Portugal will likely be anticipated to begin with a victory at Stadium 974 by Doha’s waterfront in opposition to a Ghana facet who sit 61st within the FIFA rankings.

Portugal coach Fernando Santos claimed that Ronaldo’s break up from United had not been mentioned by the gamers.

“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 stated.

“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 different match.

Son Heung-min will have the ability to play for South Korea regardless of sporting a masks after facial surgical procedure.

The Tottenham Hotspur attacker and Korean skipper had surgical procedure earlier this month after struggling a fracture round his left eye throughout a UEFA Champions League recreation.

“Son can play and will be able to play,” stated coach Paulo Bento.

Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano scored as Japan got here from behind to beat Germany in Group E, whereas Spain began their marketing campaign with a 7-Zero demolition of Costa Rica with Ferran Torres scoring twice for the 2010 World Cup winners.

Belgium additionally began in profitable style in Wednesday’s late match as Michy Batshuayi’s aim gave them a 1-Zero victory over Canada, for whom Alphonso Davies had a penalty saved.

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

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