Portugal will be making another stab at the only major title yet to land in their trophy cabinet – the FIFA World Cup when they open their Qatar 2022 bid with a game against Ghana in Group H. This game will be staged at the Doha Stadium on Thursday, with the two nations gunning for the early advantage in a tricky pool that also has Uruguay and Korea Republic. These two sides have had contrasting runs ahead of the competition, with Portugal posting the better results. The Portuguese are coming from a morale boosting 4-0 win over Nigeria in a friendly game right ahead of the 2022 World Cup. It was their second such result in the last three matches, after thrashing Czech Republic in the Nations League. Losses to Spain and Switzerland in the last four matches however dent what would have been a great patch for the Portuguese. They have 10 goals, scored in three of the five matches, and have kept clean sheets in those wins. Portugal have conceded two goals only in the last six matches.
Ghana come into this game having won their last two matches, recovering from a complete whitewash by Brazil, in a game they lost 3-0. Right before heading to Qatar, Ghana beat Switzerland 2-0 and earlier they had registered a 1-0 win over Nicaragua. Here things get tighter and the African giants will want to bring out their best. Coach Otto Addo rested a number of his key men in the win over Switzerland, key among them Thomas Partey who has been pivotal to the team and his club, Arsenal. Here he will want to unleash them all on Portugal, and there is an extra edge of having Inaki Williams and Tariq Lamptey agreeing to play for Ghana. The two wins Ghana have registered back-to-back will however pass as a better run than they’ve managed in the earlier 11 matches, where they won just once – a 3-0 victory over island nation Madagascar in the African Cup of Nations qualification game. That is also their only win in their last seven competitive matches. While Ghana haven’t won a lot in their recent matches, they haven’t struggled a lot to score; they have failed to score in just three of their last 10 matches. However, they do not score a lot; in those 10 matches, they’ve managed more than a goal in just one. In World Cup action, Ghana will be looking to do better as they return to the global competition. They haven’t won any of their last four World Cup matches, and their only meeting with Portugal so far was in the 2014 World Cup where they lost 2-1. In their last three World Cup matches they conceded two in each. In seven straight World Cup matches, Ghana haven’t kept a clean sheet, and they have just one in the last 10.
The stats ahead of this game rightly point to Ghana as the underdogs. Given the stature of players they have, Ghana will try to play more defensively and hope to attack on the counter. To win with that strategy against Portugal will call for a lot, given the amount of talent in the Portuguese team. Ghana will be hard to break but we expect Portugal to win here.
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