The Qatar 2022 World Cup has been plain sailing so far for Portugal, who go into their matchday three Group H clash against South Korea already assured of a place in the round of 16.
After a dull first half, their opening game against Ghana came to life in the final 25 minutes, which saw Fernando Santos’ side edge out the Black Stars by the odd goal in five. Cristiano Ronaldo inevitably opened the scoring (from the penalty spot) but it was quick-fire strikes from João Félix and Rafael Leão which secured the three points as Ghana fought their way back into the contest.
🎙 Fernando Santos’ press conference:
• The players on yellows unlikely to play (Bruno, Dias, Felix, Neves).
• Nuno Mendes is out of the World Cup.
• Ronaldo to play vs Korea? 50/50.
• Otavio is out of the Korea game. pic.twitter.com/fgy4qtlZxk
— TC (@totalcristiano) December 1, 2022
Similarly, O Seleçao’s second game against Uruguay was a tight affair in the opening period but Portugal stepped things up after half-time and ran out 2-0 winners thanks to a Bruno Fernandes double, with the opening goal snatched away from Ronaldo by FIFA, who concluded that he hadn’t got a touch on his teammates’ cross into the box.
Two wins from two means there is nothing riding on the matchday three clash against South Korea in terms of qualification, although the Asian side, managed by Portuguese Paulo Bento, who is banned from the dugout for this game, are desperate for a victory to give themselves a chance of joining their opponents in the knockout stages.
Fernando Santos to make changes to Portugal team
Portugal may, however, still require a point to be certain of finishing the group in first place, as Ghana can still catch them on six points, although a four-goal swing would also have to take place. Pre-match, Santos has spoken about the importance of winning the group to ensure his players have an extra day’s rest before their round of 16 tie but has also said that he will make changes due to fatigue.
Félix, Fernandes, Ruben Dias and Ruben Neves are all one booking away from serving a one-match suspension, while Danilo Pereira and Nuno Mendes won’t feature due to injury.
Another factor to take into consideration is that Ronaldo needs one goal to equal and two to break Eusebio’s record of Portugal’s all-time top goalscorer in the World Cup; you can’t imagine that the five-time Ballon d’Or would want to pass up even a single opportunity to set a new record. However, he has been struggling with a minor knock and may not be risked unless he is fully fit.
Possible Portugal XI vs South Korea:
Costa; Dalot, Pepe, Silva, Guerreiro; Bernardo, Carvalho, Palhinha; Ramos, Ronaldo, Leão.