2022 World Cup: Group H

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Portugal (9th)

Portugal National Team Photo: Diogo Pinto/ POOL/AFP

Portugal has not had the best runs in the World Cup. Only making past the round of 16 twice in history, placing 3rd and 4th. The European Championship has been better. They won the tournament in 2016, but the quality of their performances has declined. Portugal fell out in the round of 16 in the 2020 iteration. Portugal did win the 2019 Nations League. However, they have failed to qualify for the last 2 Nations Leagues. Portugal’s recent form has been good. Five wins, one against Switzerland(15th), two against the Czech Republic(35th), Turkiye(45th), and North Macedonia(65th). One draw against Spain(7th). Two losses, one against Spain(7th) and one against Switzerland(15th).

Portugal’s Strength is its star power. Bruno Fernandesn Ruben Dias, Bernando Silva, Raphaël Guerreiro, and Renato Sanches. This team is loaded with top talent, throughout the pitch.

Portugal’s Weakness is its overreliance on Christiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo has been the primary goal scorer on this team for the last 15 years. However, Ronaldo is 37 years old and in a physically demanding position. Ronaldo has slowed down this season, recording only 3 goals through 15 appearances. 

Player to Watch: Christiano Ronaldo/ Rafael Leão

Rafael Leão Photo: Getty/GOAL

Ronaldo is one of the greatest players ever. He is the difference maker. Portugal is a strong team across the pitch but needs goals. Rafael Leão may be the one to bring them if Ronaldo cannot. Leão has been in excellent form. Though 17 games, he has scored 6 goals with 9 assists. He is among the best midfielders, when it comes to creating shots, creating 4 per 90 minutes for his team. He will be crucial to Portugal scoring in the World Cup

Ghana (61st) 

Ghanian National Team

This is Ghana’s fourth world cup ever. Ghana first made it in 2006, making it out of the group stage, and followed that up with a deep run in 2010, making the Quarter-finals in South Africa. They failed to make it out of the group stage in 2014. They failed to qualify for the 2018 tournament. Ghana has fallen down the soccer pecking order in Africa. The 1960s were ruled by Ghana in the Africa Cup of Nations, winning two and placing second in the tournament twice. They experienced a resurgence in the early 2010s. Ghana secured two 2nd place finishes, and 4th three times. Before losing in the round of 16 in 2019. Then, failing to get out of groups in 2021. They qualified for the African Nations Championship for the first time. After missing the last three championships. They also participated in the Kirin Cup, finishing third with a penalties victory.

Ghana’s recent form has been poor. Through 13 games in 2022, Ghana has won 3 of them, drew 4, and lost 6 of them. The wins against Madagascar(102nd) and Nicaragua(142nd), with a penalties win against Chile(29th). However, outside of these three games, they have been poor. They did not even win to make it into the World Cup. They passed Nigeria(32nd) in the World Cup Qualifiers as they drew both games and won the game on aggregate goals because they scored on the road while Nigeria only scored at home, which gave them a tie-breaker over Nigeria. Their losses recently came from Brazil(1st) 0-3, Qatar(50th) 1-2, Japan(24th) 1-4, Comoros(129th) 2-3, Morocco(22nd) 0-1, and Algeria(37th) 0-3. 

Ghana’s Strength is its depth in the squad, especially in defense and attack. They have multiple top-league players available to start. Defensively, Daniel Amartey and Denis Odoi can play across the backline in any position. The attack has the Ayew brothers up front, two staples in the national team. Inaki Williams, who has been in form for his club with a new young striker in Issahaku Fatawu, 

Ghana’s Weakness is in the midfield. They have Thomas Partey. No one else is in form or getting regular playtime in their midfield.  

Player to Watch: Mohammed Kudus

Mohammed Kudus playing for Ajax Photo: Twitter @AFCAjax

The 22-year-old has been in amazing form and it will continue into the World Cup. Through 17 games, Kudus has 9 goals with 3 assists. Incredible for an attacking midfielder. He is completing 5 dribbles per 90. He is also involved with a goal every 90 minutes. 

Uruguay (14th)

Uruguay National Team Photo: Alex Pantling/ Getty Images

Uruguay has had little success in the World Cup since lifting the Cup in 1950. They finished 4th in the tournament three times, the last being in 2010. Their last appearance came in 2018, where they finished 5th, exiting in the quarter-finals after losing to the eventual winners France. 

Uruguay’s form has been incredible. They have dropped only one of their last nine games. That was a loss to Iran(20th) 0-1. A win over Mexico(13th) 3-0, Chile(29th) 2-0, Venezuela(57th) 4-1, and a 2-0 win over Canada(41st) sees them in excellent form for the World Cup. 

Uruguay’s Strength is its defensive abilities. They allowed just 2 goals in their last nine games while scoring 18 goals. This has been enabled by the midfield and the centre-backs. 

Uruguay’s Weakness is its age which brings about questions of fitness. Luis Suarez is 35 years old, how long is he able to keep up? The number two to Luis Suarez in this squad Edison Cavani is 35 years old. Diego Godin is 36 years old, in a physically demanding position at centre-back. Fernando Muslera is 36 years old between the sticks. He is likely going to see a reduction in his reaction time because of his age. 

Player to Watch: Rodrigo Bentancur

Rodrigo Bentancur playing for Tottenham Hotspurs Photo: Kieran McManus/Shutterstock

The 25-year-old midfielder is in form for his premier league club. A defense-focused midfielder first. His versatility is what makes him someone to watch because he can play as an offensive midfielder. He has one of the highest pass completion percentages, with a completion rate of 88%, while attempting 63 passes per 90 minutes. 

South Korea (28th) 

South Korean National Team Photo: Korea Football Association

South Korea has been a staple in the World Cup since 1986. The success has been middling. They finished 4th in 2002 when they cohosted with Japan. They also made it out of the group stage in 2010, losing in the round of 16. In other tournaments, the Tigers have been good. They won the 2019 EAFF Championship and finished 2nd in the 2022 version of the tournament. In the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, they finished 5th in the tournament. South Korea’s recent form has been decent. They lost to Japan in the 2022 EAFF Championship final, a loss 1-5 to Brazil(1st), and suffered a 0-1 loss to UAE(70th). Korea then drew with Paraguay(40th) and Costa Rica(31st). They defeated Cameroon(43rd), Egypt(39th), Iran(20th), and Chile(29th).

South Korea’s Strength is its defense, particularly in net and center-back. The goalkeeper Seung-Gyu Kim has been lights out in the Saudi Pro League, keeping 6 clean sheets through 8 games. The star defender Kim Min-Jae has caught fire in Serie A(Italian League). The defender has risen to the best in the league. 

South Korea’s Weakness is they are a one-player on the attack. Son Heung-Min is the greatest player in South Korean history and potentially in Asian soccer history. There is little help on attack. Son will likely miss the tournament after suffering an eye socket fracture during a Champions League match. This leaves a massive hole in the team. Son will be fit to make it to the tournament, but South Korea remains a one-player attacking team.

Player to Watch: Kim Min-Jae

Kim Min-Jae playing for Napoli Photo: Getty

The 26-year-old center-back is the backbone of the Korean defense. His strength is his physicality. Jae standing at 6’3. Despite the size, he is nimble. His physicality allows him to win nearly 3 aerial duels a game. He is the present and the future of South Korea’s defense.

Predictions

  • Uruguay 1st
  • Portugal 2nd
  • South Korea 3rd
  • Ghana 4th

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