Group H: Portugal Focused As Ghana Eye 'Brave' Show| MENAFN.COM

Saturday, 26 November 2022 09:24 GMT

Group H: Portugal Focused As Ghana Eye 'Brave' Show


(MENAFN- The Peninsula) fawad hussain | The Peninsula

Doha: Portugal coach Fernando Santos has said the saga of Cristiano Ronaldo's exit from Manchester United was“not even been discussed” as his team prepares to meet Ghana in their opening World Cup match, today.

“There is complete focus, a fantastic spirit and the players are convinced of what they have to do,” Santos told a press conference on the eve of the team's Group H match at Stadium 974.

“In our time together on the pitch, whenever we're together, playing and training, the conversation has not come up at any moment.” 

The Premier League side announced on Tuesday that Ronaldo would leave the club with immediate effect following his interview in which he said that he felt betrayed by the club.

Santos has been determined to guide his team to a better show than four years ago when his team lost to Uruguay in the Round of 16 in Russia. The Portugal coach said there were no favourites in any match with less fancied sides creating problems for big sides. 

“This is not just about what happened to Argentina. This has happened to several other teams,” he said referring to Saudi Arabia's stunning win over Argentina on Tuesday. 

“Winning a tournament like this is extremely difficult for any team, for any country. You only need look at these first few games to see that clearly.”

“That's because most of the players are in the same leagues. They play for big teams and are used to the tactical issues at play. In the past you would see a difference, but nowadays you don't, especially as all the coaches are of an extremely high level,” Santos added. 

Ghana's players in action during training at Aspire Zone Training Facilities 1 yesterday. 

Meanwhile, Ghana, who reached the Round of 16 on their World Cup debut in 2006, was hoping for a good start to their World Cup. 

“We go into this game with Portugal favourites on paper. But we have to show that it is more important what happens on the pitch. We are playing a big side with top players, but we believe in ourselves and will make it very difficult for them,” said Ghana captain Andre Ayew.

The Al Sadd forward hoped his team - lowest-ranked (FIFA ranking 61) side competing in the World Cup - to pull off a shock wins in the tournament. 

“We all know in these big tournaments there are surprises that can happen, we just need to be ready. I don't feel anyone is stressed or has anxiety before the game,” said Ayew. 

Portugal defeated Ghana 2-1 at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil after a late goal by Ronaldo, though in different circumstances, a fact Ayew pointed out.

“The two teams have changed a lot since then. It is a different game, when we played them in 2014 we had to win by two goals to advance,” Ayew said.

“It is not the same game, or the same moment, it is completely different. Every game has its own realities and we will try to give them a tough time,” he added. 

The opening match in the group earlier today will see Uruguay face South Korea at the Education City Stadium.

When: Today at 7:00pm
Where: Stadium 974
Capacity: 40,000

Key stats:
- Portugal's best World Cup finish was third in 1966. They have qualified for the previous five tournaments in a row, reaching the knockout rounds on three occasions (2006, 2010 & 2018).
- Ghana are appearing at a fourth World Cup finals having qualified three times in succession between 2006 and 2014, but missed out in Russia four years ago. They have reached the knockout rounds twice, with a quarter-final finish in 2010 their best result.
- Portugal have met African opposition five times before at the World Cup, recording three wins, a draw and a 3-1 loss to Morocco in 1986.
- Ghana were within a late Asamoah Gyan penalty of being the first African nation to reach the semi-finals in 2010, but the striker missed from the spot against Uruguay and the Black Stars then lost in a shootout.

Previous meetings:
The only previous clash between Portugal and Ghana was at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where a John Boye own goal and Cristiano Ronaldo strike helped the European side to a 2-1 victory in the group stage.

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