Portugal could probably do without the additional baggage of the Cristiano Ronaldo saga – just as they get their 2022 World Cup campaign into gear. The team captain and all-time top scorer had his contract at Manchester United rescinded on Tuesday, just two days before their group stage opener against Ghana. And yesterday, the No.7′s off-field problems deepened further as he was hit with a $60,000 fine and two-game, club level ban for breaking a fan’s mobile phone fine. Portugal coach Fernando Santos however, says that none of that will have any bearing on the mood within the national team camp. “It’s something that has not even been discussed,” he told reporters. “This conversation has not come up at any moment, not even from him.”
Portugal go into the tournament among the bookies’ favourites to lift the trophy at +1400. This is the sixth consecutive time they have made it to the finals having reached fourth place at Germany 2006 and the Last 16 in 2010 and 2018. At +35000, Ghana aren’t expected to go far but that’s not to say they won’t give their Group H rivals a run for their money. Otto Addo’s team just edged South Africa to win their qualifying group with a superior head-to-head record, and similarly, secured their place at Qatar 2022 by the skin of their teeth – beating Nigeria in the Third Round play-offs on away goals. So luck has been shining on them in the tournament so far.
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Portugal took the long route to the finals after finishing as runners-up to Serbia in their qualifying group. They went into the play-offs as top seeds and beat Turkey 3-1 in the semi-finals and North Macedonia 2-0 in the final to book their ticket back in March. Fernando Santos’ men limbered up for the final with a friendly against African opposition last week, and looked pretty comfortable as they fired four past Nigeria in Lisbon with Bruno Fernandes bagging a brace.
Ghana prepared with two friendlies in September with mixed results. Brazil showed they are in a different league, beating them 3-0 in Le Harve but the Black Stars recovered from that to beat Nicaragua four days later. Their last outing, a friendly against Switzerland last week, was also a moral-boosting exercise – second half goals from Mohammed Salisu and Antoine Semenyo put the seal on a 2-0 win.
Portugal vs Ghana: odds
Portugal are the bookies’ bet at -245 with most betting houses, Ghana are at +750 while a draw is priced at +330.
The two teams have only met once before – at the 2014 World Cup group stage in what turned out to be a close game, sentenced in the last 10 minute by a Cristiano Ronaldo winner.
Portugal vs Ghana: prediction
Fernando Santos’ Portugal is a mix of veterans, promising up-and-coming stars and players who are in their prime but one thing they don’t lack is experience. Most of the squad are established at their respective clubs in the major European leagues – players such as Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, André Silva and João Félix are household names who have shown what they can do at the top level. For old hands, Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe meanwhile, this will be their fifth and fourth World Cup respectively.
There are also several familiar faces in the Ghana squad. Iñaki Williams, Jordan Ayew and Thomas Partey are three of the more well-known players among a group who are mostly competing at European clubs in the Premier League, Championship, Ligue 1 and LaLiga.
Prediction: Portugal 3-2 Ghana