On June 26th, Portugal and Ghana travel to the Estádio Nacional de Brasilia to play their final game in group play. One or both of these teams will be going out after this game. Both of these teams were looking at this group with some amount of optimism for getting through. Now neither of them have their destiny in their own hands.
After their disastrous opening game against Germany, Portugal took on the United States in the scorching heat of Manaus. The Portuguese got off to a great start, going 1-0 ahead after Nani took advantage of a Geoff Cameron error. After that, the United States grabbed control of the game. The US eventually equalised in the 64th minute with a thunderbolt from Jermaine Jones. Clint Dempsey gave the boys in red white and blue a late lead after chesting the ball into the back of the net in the 82nd minute. On the brink of elimination, Portugal needed a moment of magic. Their superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo, delivered just that with a perfect cross to Varela who equalised in the 95th minute, the latest ever regulation World Cup goal.
Ghana had to rebound from their disappointing 2-1 loss to the United States with a game against the group favorites, Germany. After a nothing first half, the second half was one of the best 45 minutes of football we’ve seen in this amazing World Cup. Germany went in front with a classic head to knee finish by Mario Goetze. Andre Ayew responded only three minutes later in the 54th minute with a beautiful flicked header. Ghana took a shock lead nine minutes later after a swift counter attack finished by Asamoah Gyan. Germany needed a goal to equalise and called on none other than a man born to score goals, Miroslav Klose. Klose scored his record tying 15th World Cup goal 112 seconds after being subbed on. The game finished as a draw leaving Ghana with only a point.
Portugal will still be without Fabio Coentrao against Ghana and could be without Hugo Almedia and Rui Patricio through injuries. The Portuguese will get a boost with their slightly eccentric but talented defender Pepe returning from suspension. Ghana’s only injury concern is the nagging injury of midfielder Michael Essian.
If the USA and Germany draw, both Ghana and Portugal will go out no matter the result of this fixture. If Ghana win by multiple goals and the USA lose they will go through. Portugal will need to win and make up some of their terrible -4 goal difference to advance.
The key man for Portugal is Cristiano Ronaldo, just like every other Portugal game. Ronaldo is far and away Portugal’s most talented player. It has been obvious though, that Cristiano is far from 100% fit. The Real Madrid superstar has struggled with tendinosis and it has shown in his performances. Even with that injury Ronaldo, like all superstars, is able to produce that one moment of quality to change a game like he showed in the 95th minute of the last game.
Ghana’s main man is their all time top scorer and lone striker, Asamoah Gyan. Gyan scored his 41st career international goal against Germany proving he can still do it at the highest level, despite not playing his club football at the highest level. The former Sunderland striker moved to to Al Ain FC in 2011 but has still been able to keep his performances for his country at a high level scoring 18 goals for Ghana since his move in 2011. Ghana will need a top performance from their lone striker and will likely need him to either create or score at least one goal to send them through to the knock out stages of this World Cup.
Portugal will be fighting to salvage what has been a terrible World Cup. If they were to advance from the group, this terrible start would be forgotten. Ghana gave themselves a chance with their draw against Germany. Both teams will have to go for it and could both be eliminated no matter what the result is. A draw does no one any good as it would eliminate them both. With both teams going for it there will likely be goals.