Ghana will be eager to do their best to prevent Ronaldo’s Portugal from winning their third trophy in six years.
Who: Portugal vs Ghana, Group H
Where: Stadium 974
When: Thursday, November 24, 19:00 (16:00 GMT)
FIFA Ranking: Portugal (9), Ghana (61)
Despite all his problems off the pitch at Manchester United and the decline in his powers with age, Cristiano Ronaldo, 37, remains one of the best in the game.
Portugal’s record goalscorer has had a poor season but will be eager to serve up a World Cup to remember as this may be his final performance on a global stage. It doesn’t matter that he likes to routinely silence his critics, especially on big occasions.
Saudi Arabia’s defeat of Argentina, captained by arch-rival Lionel Messi, could also serve as a great incentive for Ronaldo to push his team as far as possible in this tournament, for the sake of his legacy and to outdo his rival.
A supporting cast of fellow veteran Pepe, AC Milan wunderkind Rafael Leão and a host of other stars, including midfielders Vitinha and Bruno Fernandes, will be on hand to help the team’s efforts to win a first 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 defense.
If he wins the trophy, it will be the third in a series of glorious outings in six years, after the European Championship (2016) and Nations League (2019) trophies.
But first, they have to face Ghana, whom they beat 2-1 at the 2014 World Cup.
Ajax’s star striker Mohammed Kudus and Arsenal’s defensive midfielder Thomas Partey will lead the revenge mission, hoping to clip the wings of Ronaldo and co.
Despite being ranked 61st in the world by FIFA, the Black Stars, as Ghana is known, have a reputation for turning heads and consistently strong performances in FIFA age-ranking competitions.
They will be eager to translate that youthful success into this World Cup and advance to the quarterfinals like they did in 2010, or even beyond.
The Ghanaians clinched qualification for Qatar 2022, their fourth appearance, over rivals Nigeria due to the away goals rule, after a disastrous performance at the Africa Cup of Nations in January, where they collected just one point from a group with Morocco, Gabon and the Comoros.
Fans will be hoping for a change in fortunes in the Middle East.
Their manager, Otto Addo, will be able to draw on the experience of former Newcastle manager Chris Hughton in his back room to mount a decent challenge.
And if they can stifle what on paper is one of the most potent attacks in world soccer, they can also hope they can break through the barriers that Uruguay and South Korea, the other two teams in their group, raise in subsequent matches.