Group G is very much a tight affair now with every team having a chance to qualify for the round of 16.
The match between Portugal versus Ghana on Thursday 26 June will be of immense importance for both the teams. Both teams need a win and good goal difference to qualify for the next stage and unfortunately for one of them, the competition will end here.
Portugal got a lifeline against USA after a very late injury-time goal by substitute, Silvestre Varela. It was a ‘do or die’ match for the Portuguese as a loss could have seen them packing their bags early.
Now it’s going to be their second such situation with a loss or a even a draw ending their hopes. The first game against Germany saw injuries and suspension to important players and ineffective displays from wingers Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo, which raised concerns over their aspirations.
Against USA, they started strongly to lead by a goal in the first half and keeping USA’s attack at bay, ultimately finishing off with a draw.
Ghana played the entire game against Germany at a frenetic pace and cut down the supplies of German midfield to their attackers. The midfield of Sulley Muntari and co. recovered lot of balls from the Germans to launch lightning fast counter-attacks.
The Ghana wingers, Andre Ayew and Christian Atsu were always available for receiving passes on the flanks or making a run behind the German defence. A carelessly defended corner saw Germany’s Miroslav Klose pulling back an equalizer otherwise Ghana had staged set for an impressive win.
The game will be an open contest with both the team’s emphasis on attacking. Portugal’s wingers will be important to their attack, as they look to stretch the Ghanian fullbacks.
Lack of overlapping fullbacks and genuine wingers in Germany’s starting XI made defending an easy task for Ghana fullbacks, but against Portugal they cannot be lax.
Portugal might have the same problems at their end with Fabio Coentrao injured they have one good fullback missing, but placing defensive minded wingbacks will be a good plan against Ghana providing extra protection to the centre backs.
In the midfield, Ghana have strong and powerhouse midfielders like Kevin Prince Boateng and Mohammed Raibu but Muntari’s suspension means they lose an experience head to steer them through the crunch clash. The aging Michael Essien might be a gamble if Ghana coach, James Appiah decides to play him. Essien was a great midfield player a few years back but it will be a safe bet not to play him.
Against the like of Raul Merieles and Miguel Veloso Ghana should be able to overpower the Portuguese. Veloso had a poor tournament so far, unable to provide the strength and bite in the midfield. Instead, the youngster William Carvalho has been impressive when called upon as a substitute and coach Paulo Bento should play him in the centre of the park. Pepe’s availability for the crunch clash after serving one match ban will be a huge boost for Portugal and they will be hoping that he doesn’t do something reckless like a head butt again.
Portugal to win: 13/10 (Boylesports)
Over 3.5 goals in the game: 13/8 (William Hill)