Over last weekend, Ghana and Portugal played in matches that both ended in 2-2 draws, keeping their World Cup hopes alive. In their first meeting against each other, Group G’s underachievers have one more chance to redeem themselves while potentially advancing to the knockout stage.
Heading into the tournament, many believed Cristiano Ronaldo was going to dominate the World Cup and move himself up the list all fans and pundits personally have of the greatest soccer players of all time, especially after winning his second Ballon d’Or and another Champions League title. Unfortunately, he’s had a tendinitis issue in his left knee for at least three months which has shown in his quality of play. The three-time European Golden Shoe winner’s country doesn’t have the most talented team and he had to carry them into the World Cup by outscoring Zlatan Ibrahimovic 4-2 in a two-legged play-off which saw Portugal get in the tournament over Sweden so he hasn’t had the benefit of someone else being able to step up to catapult the squad to success.
Cristiano’s performances so far have left much more to be desired but the 29-year-old still delivered a perfectly weighted ball in a cross, a skill he barely uses anymore, during the very last moment of the game against the United States which winger Silvestre Varela headed in to give their homeland a slim but definite opportunity to advance.
The side has other injury issues with midfielder Andre Almeida, striker Hugo Almeida, goalkeeper Rui Patricio and striker Helder Postiga attempting to make themselves available for the match while full-back Fabio Coentrao has been knocked out the competition with a thigh injury. Real Madrid’s hot-headed defender Pepe returns after a disciplinary suspension and believes his country has what it takes to advance.
“I do believe in miracles. I think we can still make it. It will be difficult, but we have to fight. Portugal have always been willing to fight and we will do just that against Ghana, even with all the difficulties we have been experiencing. We know that Ghana have very fast players, especially on the wings. They have an amazing attack. But we also know that they need a win as well in order to qualify. We will have to give our all,” said Pepe in a pre-match press conference.
Ghana, on the other hand, haven’t lived up to their own expectations by losing to the United States in the opening match 2-1 and having a stalemate against Germany. Many distractions have been around the team with reports of the FA president being accused of match fixing international friendlies, the players planning a revolt on manager Kwesi Appiah following a loss to the Americans and players failing to receive payment and potentially boycotting the match against Portugal.
Kwesi Nyantakyi, Ghana’s FA president, has denied the allegations on him and plans to sue the Daily Telegraph because they first broke the news, Appiah said he’s resolved all the issues with players including midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng and Ghana’s actual President John Dramani Mahama had to send a plane full of cash to make sure the players didn’t protest their game against Portugal. Winger Christian Atsu believes they can put all the drama behind them to focus and get a victory.