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WORLD CUP NOTEBOOK

Cristiano Ronaldo, days before possible Portuguese Cup run begins, out at Manchester United

Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo, shown during World Cup training on Tuesday, will be without a club after the tournament following his immediate departure from Manchester United.PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP via Getty Images

Cristiano Ronaldo will leave Manchester United “with immediate effect,” the Premier League club said Tuesday, two days before his Portugal side opens Group H play against Ghana.

It wasn’t known where the 37-year-old Ronaldo, who recently gave an explosive interview criticizing manager Erik ten Hag and the club’s owners, will go next after failing to secure a move to a Champions League club in the summer.

“Following conversations with Manchester United we have mutually agreed to end our contract early,” Ronaldo said. “I love Manchester United and I love the fans, that will never ever change. However, it feels like the right time for me to seek a new challenge.

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“I wish the team every success for the remainder of the season and for the future.”

Ronaldo has been left frustrated after being reduced to a fringe member of United’s team this season. The Portugal captain said he felt “betrayed” during the 90-minute interview with Piers Morgan, which aired Thursday and in which he was also critical of younger players.

United said last week it had initiated appropriate steps in response to his comments, with the cancellation of his contract widely expected.

Ronaldo’s departure came the same day the Glazer family, which took over Manchester United in a 2005 leveraged buyout that saddled it with massive debts, confirmed it is exploring strategic options that could lead to a full sale of the historic English club. Bloomberg News reported in August that the Glazers would consider selling a minority stake, and that a deal could value the club at about $6 billion.

In May, rival English Premiership club Chelsea FC was sold to American billionaire Todd Boehly and private equity firm Clearlake Capital in a roughly $5 billion deal after a competitive auction process. Liverpool, owned by Fenway Sports Group, recently announced a similar search, with France’s Paris Saint-Germain also seeking minority investment.

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Ticket woes continue

Handwritten paper tickets were given to some fans to enter France’s victory over Australia as hundreds more struggled to retrieve their digital passes amid problems with FIFA’s mobile application for a second day.

The Associated Press witnessed a FIFA staffer writing out replacement tickets from a white paper in an attempt to help fans waiting in line about 40 minutes before the start in Al Wakrah. Other fans were advised to show security staff their emails from FIFA confirming a ticket purchase and seat number in order to get in ahead of kickoff. The line had consistently been about 100 people long since two hours before the game.

FIFA acknowledged “alternative solutions being provided” to get all ticket holders into stadiums.

The process at Al Janoub was handled calmly, but a line of distressed fans snaked outside the main ticketing help desk in Doha. Many reported that their tickets had abruptly disappeared from their phones and could not be retrieved— a glitch that caused hundreds to miss the start of England’s match against Iran on Monday.

In front of a sign marked “Ticket Resolution Point” at a convention center in central Doha, fans swapped stories of ticket troubles and showed volunteers error messages on their mobile apps. One security guard, Mahammad Sajid, said it had been difficult to control some angry fans when the crowds peaked earlier in the morning.

“FIFA’s service provider is working on solving the issue that some spectators are facing with the FIFA Ticketing app as soon as possible,” soccer’s world body said.

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France starts strong

In Karim Benzema’s absence, Kylian Mbappe scored a goal and set up the second of Olivier Giroud’s two to help the defending champions beat Australia, 4-1.

Giroud equaled Thierry Henry’s national record of 51 goals with a header from Mbappe’s cross in the 71st minute. Giroud, who failed to score at the last World Cup but did find the net at the 2014 tournament, can break Henry’s record when France faces Denmark on Saturday.

Moments before that strike, Mbappe headed in Ousmane Dembele’s cross from the right to start this World Cup as he finished the last — with a goal. He knelt with one hand behind his back and his finger on his forehead in a new celebration.

Craig Goodwin gave Australia the lead when he turned in winger Mathew Leckie’s cross in the ninth minute. France midfielder Adrien Rabiot equalized with a powerful header in the 27th and set up Giroud’s first goal shortly after.

“It's great for our momentum and confidence to have turned things around,” Giroud said. “Even though we could have scored more we combined well.”

France was playing without the injured Benzema, who was ruled out of the World Cup last week. In victory, it may have suffered more pain, as Lucas Hernandez Theo Hernandez’s older brother — hurt his knee in the build up to Australia’s goal.

“He needs to have tests but unfortunately it does look pretty serious,” coach Didier Deschamps said. “That’s the real low point about tonight.”

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Penalty save nets Mexico draw

Guillermo Ochoa made one of the biggest penalty saves of his career, on Poland’s Robert Lewandowski in the 58th minute, to preserve a 0-0 draw for Mexico shortly after Saudi Arabia shook up Group C with its 2-1 upset victory of Argentina.

Mexico faces Argentina, ranked No. 3 in the world, on Saturday.

Lewandowski is Poland’s all-time leading scorer with 76 goals, but he remains without one at the World Cup. The Barcelona striker was awarded the penalty following a VAR review after Hector Moreno got hold of his shirt and pulled him down. He took a deep breath before his attempt, which five-time Cup participant Ochoa parried with a dive to his left.

While Mexico dominated possession, Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny turned away all four of El Tri’s shots on goal. Jorge Sanchez had a good chance for Mexico in the 44th minute but Szczesny, who plays for Juventus, pushed it over the crossbar.

Coach Gerardo Martino said Argentina’s loss will change Mexico’s preparations.

“Nobody should be surprised. These are the results that can only happen in the first stage of the World Cup,” Martino said. “We thought that would be a win by Argentina.”

There was also history made. Stephanie Frappart of France became the first woman to officiate a men’s World Cup match, serving as the fourth official. Frappart has already worked men’s games in World Cup qualifying, and the Champions League. She also handled the 2019 Women’s World Cup final, and refereed this year’s men’s French Cup final.

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Tunisia, Denmark go scoreless

Tunisia held European Championship semifinalist Denmark to a 0-0 draw in Al Rayyan, likely deserving more but denied it by an expert save shortly before halftime by goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. Before a stadium filled almost entirely with Tunisia’s red-clad supporters, midfielder Aïssa Laïdouni set the tone in the very first minute when he stripped emblematic Denmark playmaker Christian Eriksen of the ball with an aggressive sliding tackle — then stood up and pumped his arms menacingly, gesturing to the crowd to get even more fired up. The match marked Eriksen’s return to a major tournament less than a year and a half after his cardiac arrest with Denmark at Euro 2020. Assuming his customary playmaker position, Eriksen produced a dangerous long-distance shot on goal in the second half that Tunisia goalkeeper Aymen Dahmen had to bat away. Tunisia also survived the chance of a last-minute penalty for Denmark but the referee ruled to play on after a video review for a possible handball . . . Brazil great Pele congratulated United States forward Timothy Weah for scoring his debut goal in the World Cup in the Americans’ 1-1 draw with Wales, commenting on the 22-year-old’s Instagram, “Congratulations. It was a beautiful goal. Keep dreaming, dreams come true.” Weah responded to “Papa Pele” by thanking him for the “inspiring message,” adding “it is such a blessing and an honor to receive such an inspiring message from The King himself. Thank you for everything you’ve done for the world and us young black men. Grandes Abracos” . . . Discriminatory chants allegedly by Ecuador fans at the World Cup opening game led FIFA to open the first disciplinary case of the tournament on Tuesday. The chants were reportedly directed at Chile, which brought a legal case ahead of the World Cup to try to take Ecuador’s place. FIFA gave no timetable for dealing with the case.