Ghana ready for Portugal …in Group H cliffhanger

Eight years ago, a heart-breaking John Boye-own goal and an effortless finish from Cristiano Ronaldo, combined viciously to hand Portugal a 2-1 win over Ghana in the last Group G game of the Brazil 2014 World Cup.

The harrowing loss saw the Black Stars crash to an ignominious first round exit from a campaign they were favoured to excel – having dazzled their way to the quarters in their previous mission.

Andre Ayew – Black Stars

Years on, destiny has dragged the two Gullivers of the game back to the battlefield – this time – the second game of Group H, slated for the Stadium 974 in Ras Abu Aboud, Doha. 

Torrents of ‘uncharted’ waters have passed under the bridge since they last exchanged swords in Brazil; as in the case of Ghana – only two players – skipper Andre Dede Ayew and brother Jordan, are survivors of that tournament.

On the reverse, Portugal have four: Ronaldo, Pepe, William Calvalho and goalkeeper Rui Patricio.

The thrilling story is that Ghana – the youngest team at the tournament, has a constellation of talents with the likes of Mohammed Kudus, Kamaldeen Sulemana, Issahaku Abdul Fatawu, Osman Bukari, Daniel-Kofi Kyereh and Daniel Barnieh Afriyie, all showing to be in fine fettle and could take on the finest in the world.

Experts say the Portuguese are odds on favourites to assure full charge of Group H, whilst Ghana, South Korea and Uruguay slug it out for the other slot in a bid to grab a potential Round of 16 berth.

Portugal – a sparkling blend of quality, experience and youth, demonstrated some great derring-do ahead of the Qatar tournament when they ruthlessly pounded Nigeria’s Super Eagles 4-0 at home, a performance that got many Ghanaians concerned about their future in the group.

But the Stars also mustered a vintage performance in a final friendly with a 2-0 win against 15th-ranked Switzerland – an output that appeared to have silenced the critics a bit.

Goals from centre-back Mohammed Salisu and Antoine Semenyo inside the Sheikh Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi, UAE, provided a lot of hope for thousands of Ghanaians who would be praying for a decent opener for their pet team.

Ghana coach Otto Addo should feel positive ahead a formidable Portugal side, that also has in their ranks Man United’s Bruno Fernandes and Man City’s Bernardo Silva.

Addo, who played a yeoman’s role in Ghana’s 2006 debut World Cup, told a packed press conference yesterday his charges were optimistic of qualifying for the group but expected a tough game this afternoon at 7pm local time (4pm GMT).

“Portugal is a great side, doubtless. But our major concern is to qualify from the group and there’s nothing to an impossibility in that regard,” a strong assertion chorused by Captain Andre Ayew who said team spirit in camp was at its peak.

Later, when they took their turn, Portuguese star player – Bruno Fernandez, was also positive of recording victory over Ghana but was quick to add it would come with a lot of hard work since the Ghanaian team was strong.

A decent result for the Stars tomorrow would send a strong message to the rest of the teams in Qatar.

Ghana will return to action against South Korea at Education City Stadium on November 28 before winding up their group matches against Uruguay at Al Janoub Stadium on December 2. 

From John Vigah, Doha, Qatar

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