One African representatives Ghana prepare for their baptism of fire in Qatar when they take on Portugal in Group H of the 2022 World Cup at Doha’s 974 Stadium on Thursday. PUNCH Sports supplement the reports
The Ghanaians will return to the World Cup in 2018 after a brief absence and have only once been knocked out of the group stage by the West African side.
The Black Stars are back at the World Cup and will already be dreaming of revenge in Group H, with Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez on the sidelines 12 years after his blunder as a goalkeeper failed to reach the finals.
However, that disappointing outing was in their last appearance in 2014, where they bowed without a win to their name.
The Black Stars were also winless in three Africa Cup of Nations matches earlier this year before Otto Addo took over.
They booked their ticket to the World Cup by beating rivals Nigeria on away goals, 0-0 in Ghana and 1-1 in the second leg of the return leg in Nigeria.
Ghana face a tough test against the Selecao, who are in fine form, having won seven of their last eight games in all competitions and keeping a clean sheet in all of those wins, only suffering a loss to Brazil in that run. They impressively beat Switzerland 2-0 in a friendly last week.
Portugal and Ghana are not complete strangers at this level of football, with Cristiano Ronaldo leading the Selecao to a 2-1 win when the Black Stars faced off at the 2014 World Cup, and a similar contribution and result would be expected here. he is chasing a return to form.
In recent days, both in and out of Portugal, one man has ruled the roost as Manchester United veteran Ronaldo pulled no punches in a scathing attack on the club in an interview with Piers Morgan that led to his exit from Old Trafford. .
Ronaldo made a surprise appearance at a press conference earlier this week to plead to focus on football rather than his actions as the five-time Ballon d’Or winner looks desperately to help Portugal finally go big after a string of World Cup disappointments. .
Despite its status as an iconic footballing nation, Portugal have only reached the World Cup semi-finals twice in 1966 and 2006, and have failed to progress beyond the last 16 in four of the last five tournaments.
They played European Group H side Uruguay in Russia in the round of 16 four years ago, and have managed just three World Cup semi-final wins in their last 11 matches despite being in the perfect warm-up for the competition. way by hammering the Super Eagles 4-0 in a recent friendly.
Fast starts have not been the theme at the World Cup in Portugal, however, with Santos’ men winless in their opening three games on the biggest international stage, but Ghana must lace up their best shooting boots if they are to break through. a defense that has conceded only two goals in the last seven games.
Ronaldo missed Portugal’s warm-up against Nigeria due to illness, but has declared himself fit for the opening game.
With Diogo Jota sidelined for the campaign with a calf injury, a potent attacking trident is likely to feature Bernardo Silva and either Rafael Leao or Joao Felix, with the former perhaps favorite despite not featuring in Nigeria’s win.
Santos have some outstanding talent at their disposal and the 2016 European champions are expected to have a comfortable opening game against the team ranked 61st in the latest FIFA world rankings.
Ghana, as usual, will go in with plenty of fight with the addition of Athletic Club’s star striker, Inaki Williams.
You can never rule anything out from this encounter, given the shock results in the Middle East so far, especially with Saudi Arabia and Japan winning against heavy favorites Argentina and Germany.