Ghana heads to their fourth Fifa World Cup and will commence their Qatar adventure against Portugal on Thursday at the Stadium 974.
The Black Stars had a stellar outing, per their own parameters, in 2010 and a first time knockout qualification in 2006.
Now in Qatar for the world’s biggest football competition, the masses might not exault a round of 16 finish.
— 🇬🇭 Black Stars (@GhanaBlackstars) November 24, 2022
The Black Stars, from head coach Otto Addo to the top hierarchy of the Ghana Football Association through to the last Ghanaian fan on the principal streets, will love a semi final finish.
But before that stage, there’s Portugal, Uruguay and Asian powerhouse South Korea to deal with.
In Ghana’s first ever World Cup outing, they lost to Italy 2-0, thanks to Andrea Pirlo and Vincenzo Iaquinta. A football virtuoso, the Azurris.
They qualified from the group standings after beating Czech Republic and USA, faced Brazil in the round 16 and got thrashed 3-0.
In 2010, Germany beat the Black Stars 1-0 in the group stage. Mesut Ozil with a stunning long drive!
At the 2014 Mundial, there was the 2-2 spoils against Germany and the 2-1 defeat to Portugal in the last group game.
My point? Ghana against the football greats at the biggest stage, usually play well and still fail to win.
USA, Serbia, Czech Republic, despite being ranked 2nd in 2006, are no football greats.
Portugal? Yes they are a top football nation that have churned out at least 3 Ballon d’Or winners – Eusebio, Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo.
After all, they won the 2016 European Championship against France in France. And the Uefa Nations League.
Both with Fernando Santos as their head coach.
If Ghana wins against the Navigators, they are breaking the chain of losing to big teams on the globe.
After all, Germany lost 2-1 to Japan and Argentina were shocked Saudi Arabia on Tuesday by the same result.
That’s why it is worth discussing Portugal, how the Black Stars can get the victory and I will lead the analysis here for the next five minutes.
Have a seat, please.
Portugal have their mentality improved due to the two titles won under Fenando Santos.
Before 2016, they had won nothing at the big stage. The 2004 European Championship final was their best result at a major competition. Yes, they lost 1-0 to Greece via Angelos Charisteas’ header.
But now, they have experienced players from the UEFA Euro 2016 winning team, complemented with lots of exceptional talent to better the efforts of the oldies.
Talk of the oldies?
Rui Patricio is the only goalkeeper around since 2016.
Pepe, Raphael Guerreiro and Danilo Perreira form part of the 2022 setup now.
In midfield, William Carvalho and Joao Mario are still available and in attack, only Cristiano Ronaldo.
— Portugal (@selecaoportugal) November 23, 2022
The new school has Manchester City trio Ruben Dias, Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva, Rafael Leao of AC Milan and Atletico Madrid’s Joao Felix also in the squad.
Quality at the top stage and mostly winners in the biggest European competitions, this set of players.
In 2022, Portugal have registered 22 goals in nine matches.
Losing two matches – 1-0 to Spain and same result against Switzerland. The Seleccao have conceded four goals.
Portugal’s five attackers have 35 goals so far for their respective clubs in the 2022/23 season. Goncalo Ramos on 14, Andre Silva with 7 goals as Ricardo Horta.
Rafael Leao, named amongst the midfielders, has scored 9 goals for AC Milan.
In simple terms, Portugal has got the attack to qualify from the group and that means starting right from the onset.
That onset is our beloved Ghana!
However, Otto Addo and his lads can transform the onset status to an upset.
–Early attack, early goal
When the Black Stars face the Portuguese on Thursday, the team must have a very vibrant attacking first five to ten minutes of the opening half.
Switzerland beat Portugal 1-0 in the qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup.
Their goal? Haris Seferovic in the 1st minute of the game.
The Navigators are not known to be quick settlers in their matches and Ghana can have a go at them right in the first five minutes of the clash.
Another key statistic in finding a favourable result against Portugal is to own interceptions, tackles and clearances. In short, the defensive game.
In Portugal’s games, they have lost three times: Serbia in 2021, Spain and Switzerland in 2022.
During all these games, their opponents have had double numbers in respect to the defensive game.
It is worth noting that even when Portugal has the better numbers in that regard, their opponents were close enough and competed well.
Serbia had 15 tackles, 11 interceptions and won 46 duels against the Selecao’s 14 tackles, 21 interceptions and 48 duels.
In this clash, Portugal played a defensive game as they needed just a draw to qualify.
Against Switzerland, Portugal attacked after conceding very early in the clash.
The Swiss remarkably controlled the defensive play, registering 16 tackles, 11 interceptions and were physical in the midfield with 47 won duels against their opponent’s 48 duels.
That said, you must have a top notch defensive game to beat the 2016 European Champions.
Also, Ghana must be effective with the ball whether in several or few moments. Portugal will like to have the ball and press high upfront to suppress the Ghanaian defensive line.
But with Thomas Partey and most importantly, Abdul Samed Salis, the Stars must be quick in their ball transition and direct plays on the flanks.
The defensive flanks, in my opinion, is Portugal’s weakest link and specifically, the left flank.
Paris Saint Germain’s Nuno Mendes has been holding the left back role for a while now.
Against Spain, Mendes lost the most possession (21)in the defence. Cancelo with 14, Ruben Dias with 5, Danilo with 7.
The Carvajal cross that engineered the winner for Spain in the UEFA Nations League was also from the left side of defence.
Whatelse? When Switzerland beat Portugal, the young left-back lost the most possession(24).
Mendes is a good attacker more than a defender. That might be Ghana’s trump card in attack.
However, Nuno is doubtful for the clash and he missed training on Tuesday.
In his absence, Diogo Dalot or Raphael Guerreiro might play.
For Ghana coach Otto Addo, there might be no better way to start your World Cup experience as a gaffer with an upset against one of the strongest teams on the globe.
For that to materialize, I think a strong defensive approach will be required.
The Black Stars played the 4-2-3-1 formation against Switzerland.
With Djiku fully fit, Ghanaians might hope for a 3-5-2 setup today, thereby solidifying the central defence with Daniel Amartey, Alexander Djiku and Mohammed Salisu.
And in midfield, Thomas Partey and Abdul Samed Salis as the best pair for the midfield and Andre Ayew as the attacking midfielder.
— 🇬🇭 Black Stars (@GhanaBlackstars) November 24, 2022
Tariq Lamptey and Baba Rahman on the flanks, while Mohammed Kudus and Inaki Williams stay upfront.
But for Jordan Ayew or to some extent Dede Ayew, the formation will change.
Possibly, the 3-6-1 used against Nigeria so the Stars can compete for the ball in midfield.
Then variating that to a 3-4-3 in counter-transition situations.
There’s also the popular 3-5-2 transforming in attacking moments where Partey joins as a box-to-box midfielder while Ayew creates numbers and spaces for the two attackers.
But this is all up to Otto Addo at 16.00GMT Thursday November 24.
We wait. And we say Good luck to our Black Stars.