DOHA – Ronaldo gets his rematch four years after Uruguay knocked his Portugal team out of the World Cup.
The match Monday gives Cristiano Ronaldo a chance to avenge Portugal's loss in the round of 16 to Uruguay in 2018, even if it doesn't carry the same stakes. Uruguay's 2-1 win in Russia knocked Portugal out of the World Cup, and the most Monday's group stage match can do for Portugal is advance Ronaldo into the last 16 for the fourth time in his career.
Ronaldo has been at the center of attention in Qatar, where he arrived for what is expected to be his final World Cup seeking personal and national history. He became the first player to score in five World Cups in Portugal's 3-2 win over Ghana in his first match, and very much wants to lead his national team to its first title.
Portugal has never won the World Cup, and Ronaldo has never taken his team past the semifinals. In his 2006 debut, Portugal lost 3-1 to Germany in the third-place match. Portugal hasn't been out of the round of 16 since.
“This is just the beginning,” Ronaldo said in an Instagram post. “There are no impossibilities.”
Ronaldo scored on a penalty kick in Portugal's win over Ghana and Portugal has lost just one of its past 13 games in the group stage at the World Cup — a loss to Germany in 2014.
Portugal and Uruguay have played three times prior, but the 2018 meeting was their only match in recent years. Portugal won 3-0 in 1966 and the teams played to a 1-1 draw — both friendlies.
Now it's a matchup of longtime rivals — Ronaldo from his days playing for Real Madrid against Luis Suárez from his time at Barcelona.
Uruguay played to a 0-0 draw against South Korea and can't advance or be eliminated on Monday. But a loss would make Uruguay vulnerable headed into its final group stage match, and although not counted among the favorites, Uruguay is trying to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2010.
Uruguay won the World Cup in 1930 and 1950, but its recent history includes a fourth-place finish in 2010, the round of 16 in 2014 and the quarterfinals four years ago in Russia by beating Portugal.
There's no Neymar for Brazil in Monday's game against Switzerland as the star player is nursing an ankle injury suffered in the 2-0 opening match win over Serbia.
Brazil teammate Marquinhos said Neymar is working "24 hours a day” to try to get back on the field, but team doctors have given no timetable for his return.
“He is sleeping in physiotherapy, 24 hours a day,” Marquinhos said. “That shows how much he wants to be back with us. We don’t know when it’s going to happen, but we hope we will have him with us again as soon as possible and in good health mentally and physically.”
The workload should fall to Richarlison, who scored both goals in the win against Serbia.
Richarlison has scored nine goals in his last seven appearances for Brazil, and against Serbia became the eighth Brazilian to score a pair of goals in his World Cup debut, and the first since Neymar in 2014.
Brazil actually has quite a deep roster as it seeks a sixth World Cup title and its first in two decades, with Vinicius Junior, Raphinha and Rodrygo all ready to play against Switzerland.
“Each and every one is super skilled, even the center backs and goalkeeper,” Switzerland coach Murat Yakin said of Brazil. “They are here to get the title. That’s almost a must for them.”
Brazil has won eight consecutive matches and is unbeaten since its loss in the 2021 Copa America final.
Switzerland beat Cameroon 1-0 with a Breel Embolo goal and is looking to win its opening two World Cup games for the first time. The last time Switzerland won two consecutive games in the tournament was in 2006.
Cameroon and Serbia both lost opening matches to set up a pivotal Group G match.
Serbia lost 2-0 to Brazil on a miserable night in which it didn't get a single shot on goal for its first loss in seven matches. Cameroon narrowly fell 1-0 to Switzerland and hasn't won in five consecutive matches.
A loss for either team — combined with a draw between Brazil and Switzerland — could send both Cameroon and Serbia to the final group stage game with nothing to play for at the World Cup.
“The mistakes that were made (against Switzerland) will not be made again in the next game,” Cameroon coach Rigobert Song said.
Serbia felt it played well in the first half against Brazil before falling apart in the second half.
“The impression is that we started the second half with too much respect for the Brazilian national team and that cost us a positive result,” Serbia’s national team director Stevan Stojanovic said. “Somehow we raised our hands prematurely in surrender, which in the past was not characteristic of this generation.”
Ghana is in danger of elimination in its match against South Korea on Monday despite a decent showing against Portugal.
Ghana scored twice against Portugal, but a loss to South Korea will make it difficult to advance out of Group H. There's some familiarity with South Korea, though, because Ghana coach Otto Addo coached Son Heung-min at the youth level.
Addo was working for German club Hamburg when he first encountered Son.
“He’s very, very disciplined. So he became so good because he worked hard for it. This is what I hoped for, and I expected it,” Addo said.
South Korea challenged Uruguay in its opening match before settling for a 0-0 draw. Son has been playing with a Batman-style mask to protect the fractured eye socket he suffered on Nov. 2 in a Champions League match.
“It’s not about being worried or not as far as Son is concerned, he was recently injured and he was trying to feel comfortable with the face mask,” South Korea coach Paulo Bento said. “He needed to feel at ease with his teammates and his opponents.”