Ghana will be eager to put their best foot forward to stop Ronaldo’s Portugal from winning a third trophy in six years.
Who: Portugal vs Ghana, Group H
Where: Stadium 974
When: Thursday, November 24, 7pm (16:00GMT)
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FIFA ranking: Portugal (9), Ghana (61)
For all his off-the-pitch issues at Manchester United and the decline of his powers with age, 37-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo has remained one of the best to ever play this sport.
Portugal’s record goalscorer has had a bad season but will be keen to serve up a World Cup to remember, as this may be his swansong performance on a global stage. Never mind that he is fond of routinely silencing his critics, especially on big occasions.
Saudi Arabia’s defeat of Argentina, captained by archrival Lionel Messi, could also serve as a huge incentive for Ronaldo to propel his team as far as possible in this tournament, for the sake of his legacy and to get one over his rival.
A supporting cast of fellow veteran Pepe, AC Milan wonderkid Rafael Leão and a host of other stars including midfielders Vitinha and Bruno Fernandes will be on hand to help the team’s efforts towards winning a first-ever World Cup.
Fullback Joao Cancelo, who can play on both flanks and is known for his excellent delivery of crosses with the outside of his foot, will be behind them, looking to create magic from defence.
If they get as far as winning the trophy, it will be the third in a set of glorious outings in six years, after the European Championship (2016) and the Nations League (2019) trophies.
But first, they have to take on Ghana who they triumphed against 2-1 at the 2014 World Cup.
Star forward Mohammed Kudus of Ajax and defensive midfield linchpin Thomas Partey of Arsenal will spearhead the revenge mission, hoping to clip the wings of Ronaldo and company.
Despite being ranked 61 globally by FIFA, the Black Stars – as Ghana are known – have a reputation of springing surprises and repeatedly putting in good performances at FIFA age-grade competitions.
They will be eager to translate that youth success at this World Cup and advance to the quarterfinal as they did in 2010, or even beyond.
The Ghanaians secured qualification to Qatar 2022 – their fourth appearance – over rivals Nigeria due to the away goals rule, after a disastrous showing at the African Cup of Nations in January where they amassed only a single point in a group with Morocco, Gabon and the Comoros.
Fans will be hoping for a reversal of fortunes in the Middle East.
Their manager Otto Addo will be able to count on the experience of ex-Newcastle manager Chris Hughton in his backroom, to mount a decent challenge.
And if they can stifle what is on paper one of the most potent attacks in world football, they might also hope that they can overcome any barriers that Uruguay and South Korea – the other two sides in their group – pose in subsequent matches.