Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal require a major swing in goal difference if they are to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup.
From their first two group fixtures, the European nation have collected just one point, conceding six goals and scoring just two in the process. Consequently, with only Ghana left to play in Brasilia on Thursday, Portugal stand on the cusp of elimination.
Like their Portuguese counterparts, Ghana also have a solitary point, although at -1, their goal difference could prove to be pivotal if the USA were to lose to Germany in the other group encounter.
Head coach Kwesi Appiah will have to make do without the services of Sulley Muntari, who is suspended, but Kevin-Prince Boateng is expected to keep his place in the starting lineup.
Portugal vs. Ghana (Group G)
2 way line – Portugal -0.5 (+125) Ghana +0.5 (-145)
3 way line – Portugal (+125) Ghana (+185) Draw (+290)
Total – Over 3 (-110) Under 3 (-110)
Portugal used the absolute last touch of the game to save their World Cup lives. However, after being dominated by Germany 4-0 in the opener they need some massive results to qualify for the next round. Against the U.S. they looked pretty good the first 20 minutes. After unwrapping the gift the U.S. defense presented them the Portuguese looked as if they could go two or three goals ahead. Then it all turned. Cristiano Ronaldo’s refusal to defend allowed the Americans plenty of space along the wings which they eventually utilized to the tune of an equalizer and go-ahead goal.
However, Portugal stuck with it, Ronaldo’s brilliance came through, and they wound up with a tournament saving point. They should be much more compact at the back with the return of Pepe, but they still have no answers for the lack of Fábio Coentrão’s ability to stretch the wings. Portugal need to make up a five goal differential in 90 minutes so they will obviously have to attempt to play forward. They are thin on the attack, but they still have Ronaldo, so they are always a threat to score.
Ghana looked excellent in their second group stage against a somewhat sleepy looking Germany team. Ghana demanded a lot out of the Germans playing quick passes and owning the right wing. They took the game to the Germans in the 2nd half and were a bit unlucky they only got out of the game with a draw. Unless the Portuguese change their tactics, Ghana will run wild down the flanks the entire game. Ghana have to be careful of Portugal’s ability to counter however.
The U.S. did well to make something out of every time Fabian Johnson abandoned his defensive position, Ghana’s Christian Atsu has played well against Germany but he was bad against the Americans. If he’s off, Ronaldo will be on the break all afternoon. Pick: Ghana +0.5 (-145)
Total: Desperation is the name of the game for two teams that must not only have a win but make up goal differential at the same time. Ghana has been on the front foot for just about their entire stay in Brazil while Portugal have just a free goal from the U.S. and a miraculous late one. The counter attack that Portugal is known for has yet to show through, but Ghana could be the perfect opponent to get it going.
Portugal almost has to change it’s philosophy on the wing behind Ronaldo otherwise the Black Stars will make them pay more than the U.S. could. It’ll be interesting to see what happens if Portugal do not take an early lead or have the U.S. fall behind big quickly. Will they spend the entire 90 minutes trying to make up the huge goal differential or will they simply resign to trying to spoil Ghana’s chances. Total: Under 3 goals (-110)
Possible starting lineups
Portugal: Beto; Alves, Pereira, Pepe, Costa; Veloso, Meireles, Moutinho; Nani, Ronaldo, Postiga
Ghana: Dauda; Afful, Mensah, Boye, Asamoah; Rabiu, Badu, Boateng; Atsu, A Ayew, Gyan
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