World Cup: Portugal say Germany result spoiled tournament, but still could've passed USMNT
Ask Portugal coach Paulo Bento, and his team's World Cup was all but ruined after a shocking 4-0 loss to Germany in their opener.
Sure, they still believed they could open the floodgates against Ghana on Thursday and advance past the US in Group G on goal differential, but ever since that shellacking in Salvador, they carried the "scars" of that crushing defeat with them.
A Selecçao fell considerably short in their goal of reaching second place, topping Ghana 2-1 on Thursday to bring themselves even with the second-place United States on points, but still needing three goals to make up the negative goal difference brought about by the loss to Germany.
"It became a huge handicap against us for the last matches," Bento said of the Germany result, in his postgame remarks through a translator following the win over Ghana. "That truly left scars in our match and in our preparation.
"Of course we had opportunities against the USA and improved as compared to the first match. We tried to correct our issues and improve the points. Then in the last match, considering the context of large difficulties due to the numbers of goals that we needed, that had to happen in the next game too, we were depending on the USA vs. Germany."
There were plenty of chances to be had for both teams, with Portugal barely outshooting the Ghanaians, 18-17. Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored the winning goal in the 80th minute and could've had a few more. He hit the bar with an ambitious effort in the fifth minute, saw his point-blank header well-saved in the 19th, and missed two golden opportunities to pad Portugal's lead in the dying minutes of the game.
"It was a match where we tried to win and we did win," Ronaldo, who was named FIFA's Man of the Match, told reporters after the game. "We created many opportunities, but we could not finalize them all.
"We knew we had to score three goals and we were depending on the result of the German game and we couldn’t do that. We knew it was complicated but what’s left at the end showed that it was possible considering the opportunities we created during the game. We deserved more, but that’s how football is."
Instead, Ronaldo and Portugal will now turn their focus to Euro 2016, where the team will attempt to at least replicate its semifinal run in 2012. And while Portugal's hopes were largely riding on Ronaldo's shoulders, Bento refused to assign any individual blame.
"We made a set of mistakes along the tournament during the three different matches," he explained. "I shall never, ever hold any individual responsible for this, be it the players or the staff. The responsbility in the failure of reaching our goal, which of course makes all Portuguese sad, is my repsonsibility."