The FourFourTwo Preview: Portugal vs Ghana
The Black Stars against one Black And Blue Star.
Something's gone horribly wrong here. This wasn't meant to be the game that decides who finishes bottom of Group G. Spoiled by a boom period throughout the so-called Noughties, and the fact they possess the world's finest footballer, Portugal's ambitions were set around the quarter-finals at least. Even in the (other) Group of Death, Ghana's Black Stars were quietly confident they could come through and repeat the quarter-final-that-should-have-been-a-semi-final in 2010. Yet for both teams, the reality has been somewhat different.
Portugal took a mortal blow in that first game battering by Germany – injuries to key players, suspension to Pepe The Clown, the ongoing Is He, Isn't He saga surrounding CR7's fitness – and Paulo Bento's Selecao have played like men who'd rather be back home, Ronaldo included.
That late equaliser against USA has kept their very feint hopes alive, but Portugal require a heavy win in this last game, coupled with a heavy defeat for the USA against the Germans, to somehow scrape through. Based on how they've played up to this point, no-one of sound mind will expect that to happen.
Particularly not against a Ghana side full of pace and power, who would have beaten Germany last time out had Jordan Ayew just breathed a little deeper and passed the ball instead of going it alone. Ghana themselves are paying the price for stumbling at the start. Despite dominating USA in their opening game, they conceded late to lose 2-1 and are still playing catch-up, but running out of games. To progress here, they must win and hope Germany beat the US, or that the US beat Germany by a cricket score. The latter looks too long a shot, the former could very easily happen.
What the local media say
Portugal's last-gasp equaliser against the USA may have kept their hopes of qualifying alive, but it didn't impress The Portugal News. "A last-gasp goal by Silvestre Varela spared Portugal from complete embarrassment at the World Cup as the world’s fourth-highest ranked team held on for a 2-2 draw against the United States," it sniffed, beneath a headline: "Portugal on the brink of World Cup exit".
Key battle: Joao Moutinho vs Sulley Muntari
While the temptation remains to say Cristiano Ronaldo here, he clearly isn't fully fit and hasn't been the player we all expect – those frilly step-overs and last-gasp cross against the USA aside. More that night went through Monaco midfielder Moutinho. Portugal recorded a pass accuracy of 88.08% against USA; their best rate in a World Cup match from 1966 onwards, and everything went through Moutinho – 75 successful passes from 82, 25/31 coming in the final third. Whoever is tasked with out-muscling Moutinho – and we're saying Muntari – could determine the outcome of this game.
Facts and figures
- Portugal have won only 1 of their last 9 World Cup games drawing 4 and losing 4.
- Portugal have failed to score in 6 of their last 9 World Cup matches. Nani’s goal against USA was the first scored by Portugal in the World Cup in 276 minutes.
- Cristiano Ronaldo has scored just 2 World Cup goals despite attempting 62 ambitions and often ridiculous shots on goal. This figure includes blocked shots.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Ghana to prove too powerful and win 3-1.