Ghana’s Black Stars are pumped for their first World Cup match in eight and a half years, as they take on former European champions Portugal in what is expected to be a thrilling encounter at Doha’s Stadium 974, with both teams looking to get off to a good start in Qatar.
Interestingly, Ghana’s first opponent for this year’s tournament was the last one they faced in a World Cup match. The four-time African champions were defeated 2-1 by Paulo Bento’s men at the Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha in Brasilia, courtesy of a John Boye own goal and a Cristiano Ronaldo finish after goalkeeper Fatau Dauda’s mistake.
The two teams will meet again, but with a different group of players, in what is known as a repeat or revenge battle.
Black Stars coach Otto Addo, who was appointed in February following the Africa Cup of Nations disaster, is upbeat about his team’s chances in a major tournament.
“Our main focus is to win against Portugal, which will be very difficult. After that, we’ll look at the next step.”
His opposite number Fernando Santos believes Ronaldo’s club issues, which have overshadowed their tournament preparations, will have no negative impact on the team.
“We haven’t talked about it together, not even he has spoken about it. What’s important is that the players are convinced about what they need to do, of what their objectives are”, Santos clarified.
“What we want is to give the Portuguese people something to enjoy, that’s our goal. Everything else comes second”, he said.
HOW THEY HAVE FARED AT THE WORLD CUP
The Seleção have a better pedigree than the Black Stars, with their best result in the event coming in 1966, when they finished third. Despite their best efforts, Portugal have been unable to duplicate that result. The best they could get was fourth place in Germany in 2006. Portugal have since then failed to even secure a quarter-final place.
Ghana made their debut in 2006, reaching the round of 16 with six points before falling to a 3-0 thrashing by Brazil. The West Africans advanced to the quarter-finals in the next edition, only to lose on penalty shoot-outs to Uruguay when Asamoah Gyan failed to convert the final kick in extra time from the spot.
Ghana, however, failed to impress as they were ousted from the group stage in Brazil in 2014 after losses to the United States and Portugal.
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Portugal got to their sixth consecutive World Cup by beating Turkey and North Macedonia 3-1 and 2-0 in the European playoffs after finishing second in the preliminary round.
Ghana had to fight their way back after missing out on the last edition in Russia. After topping a group ahead of South Africa, they beat bitter rivals Nigeria in the final qualifying round on away goals.
FORM GUIDE (LAST FIVE MATCHES)
Portugal have won three and lost two of their last five matches. Notably, the 2016 European champions have managed a clean sheet in each of their victories. Ghana are just gathering momentum after a long run of inconsistent results, the Black Stars have won only two of their last five games.
17 November 2022 Portugal 4-0 Nigeria Friendly
27 September 2022 Portugal 0–1 Spain UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE
24 September 2022 Czech Republic 0–4 Portugal UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE
12 June 2022 Switzerland 1–0 Portugal UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE
9 June 2022 Portugal 2–0 Czech Republic UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE
17 November 2022 Ghana 2–0 Switzerland Friendly
27 September 2022 Nicaragua 0–1 Ghana Spain Friendly
23 September 2022 Brazil 3–0 Ghana France Friendly
14 June 2022 Chile 0–0 Ghana Kirin Cup Soccer
10 June 2022 Japan 4–1 Ghana Kirin Cup Soccer
HEAD TO HEAD
The two sides will be meeting for just the second time in history having clashed eight years ago during their final group game in Brazil.
26 Jun 2014 Portugal 2-1 Ghana FIFA World Cup
Cristiano Ronaldo has declared himself fit after suffering a slight illness and would be looking to join Bernado Silva and Rafael Leao in attack
(4-3-3): Costa; Cancelo, Pepe, Dias, Mendes; Neves, Carvalho, Fernandes; B. Silva, Ronaldo, Leao
The Black Stars have no injury concerns after goalkeepers Jojo Wollacott and Richard Ofori missed out on the final squad due to injury. New boy Abdul Salis Samed appears to be Otto Ado’s favourite to pair Thomas Partey in the absence of Real Mallorca defensive midfielder Baba Iddrisu who also missed out on the squad. In attack, despite Antoine Semenyo’s goal against Switzerland, Inaki may be favoured ahead of the Bristol City forward.
(4-2-3-1): Ati Zigi; Lamptey, Amartey, Djiku, Baba; Partey, Abdul Samed; Sulemana, Kudus, J. Ayew; Williams