World Cup 2022: PORTUGAL vs GHANA

Forget about the controversy surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo and all the media brouhaha leading up to his participation in this tournament, the 37-year old legend looks focused and ready to take on the world from what I have seen concerning his body language, first for him and the former European champions, The black stars of Ghana. 

Last week, Portugal beat Nigeria 4-0 as Ghana beat Switzerland 2-0, both teams look in great shape going into this Group H opener on Thursday evening, some say it’s a revenge fixture, others say Ronaldo has a point to prove, the Ghanaians have been waxing lyrically concerning this game and it promises to be a very interesting matchup.

First, I want to talk about the ups and downs of the Africans, they’ve assembled a team of good players since appointing Otto Addo after the last Cup of Nations disappointment. The veterans Mubarak Wakaso, Christian Atsu and even Gyan Asamoah who made their nation proud in the last few years are unfortunately no longer in good shape hence they’ve replaced them with Atletic Bilbao’s Inaki Williams, Kamal-Deen Sulemana and highly rated Ajax playmaker Mohammed Kudus. However, my worry is how much time these players have had to blend and play together building up to this tournament. A crop of fine players with little connection might not quite give the team the right balance they need to excel at the biggest stage, however, individual brilliance and some wealth of experience from leaders like Andre Ayew can help them go a bit farther than we expect.

For Portugal, I see an even better squad than the one they took to the Euros in 2016, there are pure talents in every department but three players will be key to how to perform in this game and the competition overall. Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes in midfield, veteran Pepe in defense and yes, Ronaldo in attack. The Iberian nation has one of the best team in this competition, Manchester City’s Ruben Dias will be partnered with Pepe while Nuno Mendes and Joao Cancelo play as full backs, ridiculous amount of quality with an in form Diogo Dalot on the bench as well as PSG’s Danilo and Raphael Guerrero as options. They will not concede many goals, there’s solidity in that back line with leaders to dictate play from behind. Fernando Santos may have issues in the goal keeping department as his preferred first choice Rui Patricio looks out of sorts this season but highly rated Diogo Costa has be excellent for FC Porto thus far. 

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Ghana on the other hand do look like they’re super confident and ready to avenge their 2-1 loss from 2014, Alexander Djikuand Southampton’s Mohammed Salisu are both their best bets in defense with  Tariq Lamptey of Brighton and Baba Rahman on right and left sides of defense respectively. The wing backs in this team look erratic to me, there’s a reason Lamptey hasn’t played much this season and Baba Rahman isn’t Mr Reliable if you know what I mean. 

This match might be similar to the Netherlands vs Senegal encounter we witnessed few days ago, evenly balanced but that extra quality that the Europeans possess will help them edge this one in my opinion. There’s so much individual quality in Portugal to do Ghana much harm, they parade a crop of players that move the ball fast and ensure the Black Stars don’t see enough of the ball and games of that nature could be tiring and frustration for the players doing the ball chasing. I expect Portugal to score goals honestly, I don’t foresee any type of slip up in this one, Ghana has a good set of players and Portugal has a better team with bigger players looking to approach this game like a war.

Finally, Ghana’s strength in midfield will fall heavily on Thomas Partey, the man whose goal led them to Qatar. He’d be up against Fulham’s Joao Palhinha and possibly William Carvalhowho is Santos’ go to man in every tournament, very difficult duo to play against as they’re both great ball winners and know how to shield their defense adequately. Look away from Ronaldo, there are players like Bernado Silva and Bruno who know how to find the net with a moment of magic. Media has written Ronaldo off already, I feel like if he’s partnered with a more pacey player upfront, he’d excel and Joao Felix might be that man for the job otherwise they’d play a three man front line leaving Ronaldo isolated in the middle while Bernado and Rafael Leao play on the wings, amazing talent Leao has been for AC Milan these past few seasons.

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Too much quality will speak, it will prevail over determination and physical football in this one, regardless of fears from pundits, I confidently give this one to the European heavyweights, same score as it was in 2014.

Prediction by Charles. E. Ofili


What’s your own prediction? Drop it at the comment section.

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