The third match of the day at the FIFA World Cup on Thursday sees the former European champions Portugal getting their tournament underway when they go up against the African qualifiers Ghana in the second game in Group H.
Portugal will be expected to dominate what looks like a competitive group and look to have a kind fixture to open things up with. Ghana will know they are up against it but have seen other teams pull off major shocks and will want a slice of the action.
Where to watch
This third match of the opening Thursday of the competition will be shown live and in full on the ITV 1 channel in the UK. The coverage begins at 3pm and then kick off takes place at 4pm.
The 2016 European champions Portugal are regulars at tournaments now but this talented generation of Portuguese players have never truly threatened to get right to the end of the competition. The closest they came in recent times was in 2006 when they reached the semi-finals of it but they haven’t been past the round of 16 since then and you feel they should have achieved more than that given the stars they had and have.
The narrative around their efforts this time around will be that it is potentially the final chance for Cristiano Ronaldo to win this tournament. That might be the case but focusing on him can detract from the other stars in this squad and there are plenty of them. A harmonious Portugal side with the shackles off can do a lot of damage here with the players they have, but we saw in qualifying that all too often they are guilty of flattering to deceive.
The Black Stars are back at the World Cup having missed the 2018 competition but they are the lowest ranked team in the tournament so if the rankings are to be believed then they have plenty to prove. With Uruguay in their group, Ghana certainly aren’t going to lack for motivation throughout their campaign after the way their run in what was as close to a home World Cup as they have ever had in 2010 ended.
There is a blend of youth and experience in the Ghana side which is a positive but they weren’t really much of a factor at the Africa Cup of Nations and we’ve seen African sides really struggle in this tournament. Four of them have competed so far and none of them have truly looked like scoring let alone actually done so, so there needs to be a real improvement on what we’ve seen from their fellow Africans if Ghana are to be competitive here.
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Cristiano Ronaldo sat out the friendly against Nigeria last week but he is expected to be fit to start this match despite all that is going on with him away from this tournament. Portugal have released no fresh injury information ahead of the game.
Ghana also allowed some big names to sit out of their recent friendly against Switzerland but they are expected to be back to full-strength with Tariq Lamptey one of those coming into the side since the Africa Cup of Nations.
I think this match is all about Portugal. If they are on it and fancy the job then I expect them to get it done without too much fuss. We still haven’t seen an African goal in this tournament and there is no guarantee we’ll get it here against a defence which is marshalled well by the likes of Ruben Dias and if we don’t see a Ghana goal then you’ve got to think Portugal have at least two goals in them. We’ve seen France, England and Spain take lower ranked opposition to the cleaners in this tournament and I fancy Portugal to follow suit.
This is a Ghana side who back at the Africa Cup of Nations at the beginning of the year conceded three times to Comoros in a 3-2 defeat and while some recent recruits might make them a bit better, there is no Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva et al in that Comoros side. Portugal have waited a while to get going in this tournament but they can finally concentrate on the football rather than the Ronaldo saga and I expect them to win this with a fair bit in hand.
Back Portugal (-1.5AH) to beat Ghana for a 3/10 stake at 2.02 with Bet365