Seeking to divert attention away from the never-ending Cristiano Ronaldo saga, Portugal begin another quest for international stardom when they meet Ghana in their World Cup 2022 Group H opener at Doha’s Stadium 974 on Thursday.
Fernando Santos’s side will also face Uruguay and South Korea in a challenging section, as their African counterparts face an uphill battle to make it through to the knockout stages.
When does Portugal vs Ghana kick-off?
|Photo: Getty Images|
The game between Portugal and Ghana starts on Thursday, 24 November 2022.
The headlines both inside and outside of Portugal in recent days have been dominated by one man, as Manchester United veteran Ronaldo pulled no punches in a scathing attack on the club during an interview with Piers Morgan, which could see him leave Old Trafford at best or be sacked and sued at the worst.
Ronaldo made a surprise appearance at a press conference earlier this week to demand that focus be on the football rather than his actions, as the five-time Ballon d’Or winner desperately seeks to help Portugal finally achieve the big one after several World Cup disappointments.
Despite their status as an iconic footballing nation, Portugal have only ever progressed to the semi-finals of the World Cup on two occasions in 1966 and 2006, and they have failed to go beyond the last 16 in four of their last five tournaments.
A Selecao bowed out in the last 16 to fellow Group H rivals Uruguay in Russia four years ago and have only posted a paltry three wins from their last 11 matches at the World Cup finals, although they warmed up for the competition in an ideal manner by thumping Nigeria 4-0 in last Thursday’s friendly.
Fast starts have not been a theme of Portugal’s at the World Cup, though, as Santos’s men have failed to win any of their last three opening matches on the biggest international stage, but Ghana must lace up their best shooting boots if they are to breach a defence that has only conceded two goals in their last seven games.
Following a brief absence from the World Cup in 2018, Ghana are now back where they belong and are already dreaming of sweet revenge in Group H, with Uruguayan villain Luis Suarez lying in wait 12 years after channelling his inner goalkeeper to prevent the Black Stars from reaching the semi-finals.
Before renewing hostilities with the South Americans on December 2, Ghana prepare for a baptism of fire in Qatar as they prepare for a fourth World Cup appearance since 2006, and only once have the African nation been knocked out at the group stage.
However, that disappointing exit came in their most recent appearance in 2014 – bowing out without a win to their name – and the Black Stars also failed to prevail in any of their three Africa Cup of Nations matches earlier this year before Otto Addo took the reins.
Results since the summer have caught the eye, though, as Ghana enter the World Cup having won seven of their last eight matches in all competitions – keeping clean sheets in all of those victories and only suffering defeat to Brazil during that run – and they impressively overcame Switzerland 2-0 in a friendly last week.
Portugal and Ghana are not total strangers to one another at this level of football, as Ronaldo secured a 2-1 win for A Selecao versus the Black Stars at the 2014 World Cup, and a similar contribution here would aid his efforts to make headlines for the right reasons again.
Portugal vs. Ghana team news
|Photo: Getty Images|
Portugal are missing three players from the World Cup squad due to injury, but none bigger than Liverpool forward Diogo Jota who was in good form before succumbing to a serious hamstring injury in early October. They are also without Wolves winger Pedro Neto (ankle) and Leicester City defender Ricardo Pereira (Achilles).
Stade Rennes winger Kamaldeen Sulemana was a question mark coming into the tournament after missing time with an ankle injury, but since being named in the Ghana squad it’s been all quiet, indicating that he’s likely to play. The Black Stars did lose goalkeeper Joe Wollacott, however, after he cruelly sustained a finger injury in a pre-World Cup friendly.
Portugal possible starting lineup:
Costa; Cancelo, Pepe, Dias, Guerreiro; Neves, Carvalho, Fernandes; B. Silva, Ronaldo, Leao
Ghana possible starting lineup:
Ati Zigi; Lamptey, Amartey, Djiku, Baba; Partey, Abdul Samed; Sulemana, Kudus, J. Ayew; Williams
Portugal vs Ghana Prediction
|Photo: Getty Images|
Portugal have a star-studded squad at their disposal and are in impressive form at the moment. The likes of Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva have stepped up for the team in the past and will play pivotal roles in their team’s success.
Ghana are capable of pulling off an upset on their day and have stunned the World Cup’s big names in the past. Both teams are evenly matched and could play out a high-scoring draw this week.
Prediction: Portugal 2-2 Ghana
Have Portugal and Ghana ever played before?
Portugal and Ghana have met once before, with the European side winning by two goals to one in the group stages of the 2014 World Cup. On that occasion, neither side progressed to the knockout rounds.