Perennial World Cup underdogs Portugal open their campaign against Ghana, who will look to make a mark in Qatar.
Fernando Santos leads Portugal, who come into Qatar as one of the most iconic footballing nations and face Ghana first up. For all their glamour and talent, the Seleccao remain the perennial underdogs at big tournaments, and this edition of the World Cups is no different.
The headlines are currently dominated by one star, Cristiano Ronaldo, after his Manchester United career concluded. The club released a statement confirming the forward’s departure. Ronaldo would not care too much about those headlines, as his focus remains on the task with Portugal in Qatar.
Cristiano Ronaldo is to leave Manchester United by mutual agreement, with immediate effect.
The club thanks him for his immense contribution across two spells at Old Trafford.#MUFC
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) November 22, 2022
Santos will be eager to start the tournament well and get three points in the bag. Portugal will aim to finish better than they did in Russia and aim to at least reach the semi-finals in this tournament. They have continually stayed around the last four, getting there last in 2006.
Ghana will have their task cut out as they start the World Cup campaign against the most challenging opponents of their group. The Black Stars may prove the weakest team in Group H, with South Korea and Uruguay expected to finish above them.
Having come out of a terrible Africa Cup of Nations campaign, Ghana appointed Otto Addo at the helm. The new manager has since guided the Black Stars to seven wins in eight games in all competitions and even overcame Switzerland in a friendly last week.
However, the World Cup stage is different as Ghana will face familiar foes in the group games. They did face Portugal in the 2014 World Cup, losing the tie courtesy of a Ronaldo winner. Addo will aim to continue their recent good run and maintain a defensive solidity that could prove pivotal for the Black Stars.
Team News & Tactics
Fernando Santos has taken a solid Portuguese contingent to Qatar; on paper, the Seleccao are much more robust in each position. There were no injuries in the build-up to this game, as the team came through unscathed in their friendly win over Nigeria.
— Portugal (@selecaoportugal) November 10, 2022
Ronaldo played no part in the contest but is sure to start against Ghana. FC Porto goalkeeper Diogo Costa is the preferred choice between the sticks and a back four in front of him in support. Veteran Pepe will continue in the side and partner Ruben Dias in central defence.
Joao Cancelo is the obvious choice at right-back, while PSG star Nuno Mendes will take the opposite flank. Bruno Fernandes, the de-facto leader of the Portugal midfield, will have William Carvalho in the holding role. Ruben Neves will also start in a central role.
The front three choices look straightforward for Santos, with Ronaldo leading the line. Bernardo Silva will start on the right side, while AC Milan attacker Rafael Leao will be on the left.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Costa; Cancelo, Dias, Pepe, Mendes; Bruno Fernandes, Carvalho, Neves; Silva, Ronaldo, Leao
Otto Addo has no fresh injury concerns in the 26-man squad after their 2-0 friendly over Switzerland. Thomas Partey sat out that game and will come into the starting lineup against Portugal. He is one of their best players on the pitch and key to their chances at this World Cup.
— 🇬🇭 Black Stars (@GhanaBlackstars) November 22, 2022
Ghana look strong on paper, but there are a few cracks in their team for the opposition to exploit. The likes of Kamaldeen Sulemana are also expected to feature in the lineup.
Lawrence Ati-Zigi will guard the goal for Ghana with the Premier League-influenced back four in place. Brighton man Tariq Lamptey will start at right back, supported by Daniel Amartey and Mohammed Salisu in central defence. Gideon Mensah will complete the backline.
Partey will hold the midfield for Ghana and will have Salis Abdul Samed for the company. Sulemana will take the right wing, while captain Andre Ayew plays on the opposite flank. Inaki Williams will support Jordan Ayew in the front line, with the former playing in the attacking midfield position.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ati-Zigi; Lamptey, Amartey, Salisu, Mensah; Partey, Samed; Sulemana, Williams, Andre Ayew; Jordan Ayew
- Portugal have failed to win their last three opening matches in big international tournaments.
- Portugal have failed to go beyond the Last 16 stages in three of their previous four World Cup appearances.
- Ghana have failed to win their last seven matches in the FIFA World Cup.
- Ghana have conceded at least two goals in their last three matches in the FIFA World Cup.
- Ghana have won seven of the last eight games in all competitions, keeping seven clean sheets.
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Where next for Cristiano Ronaldo? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/riINv2Httk
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) November 23, 2022
Ronaldo has plenty to prove after the debacle in the background with his recent interview and the departure from Manchester United. The Portuguese superstar remains one of the critical figureheads at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and the spotlight will fall on his head when he plays.
Having won the European Championships in 2016, Ronaldo has unfinished business on the international stage and has his eyes firmly settled on World Cup glory. At present, Portugal have a team capable of winning the tournament, and the striker will have a big part to play if they are to go deep in Qatar.
Portugal 2-1 Ghana
Portugal are better equipped to deal with early setbacks at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The choice of players Fernando Santos has taken with him represents the idea of being challengers, as Portugal are well stacked in each department. With Cristiano Ronaldo leading the line, there could be enough threat in the final third, which will count heavily.
Ghana are a good team with quality players in certain positions. Whether they have the capabilities to shock Portugal remains the question. But they boast stars that can hurt the opposition. However, considering the overall quality, Portugal could record an opening matchday victory over Ghana and put themselves in a comfortable position in Group H.