You can get £30 in Free Bets when you bet £10 with BetUK by CLICKING HERE or on the image below.
18+. T&C’s Apply. New customers, opt-in and deposit within 7 days, and settle a £10 minimum bet at odds of 1.5 or greater, to be credited with 3x £10 free bets. Free bets must be used on 4 or more selections with odds of 1.3 or greater, stake not returned. T&C’s Apply. BeGambleAware.org
The Portugal squad is one of the deepest in the whole tournament. Every area of the squad is stocked with household names and top performers. Some areas, such as central midfield, is so stacked that someone like Renato Sanches was left behind. The question is, does this depth matter or does it actually create confusion over the strongest starting XI?
Then there is the small matter of Ronaldo. Undoubtedly, he is Portugal’s key man for many years, and probably still undroppable for Fernando Santos. But he was reduced to a bit-part player at Manchester United and, as we all now know, has left the club by mutual consent.
With his physical impact perhaps waning and his mentality questionable, in addition to the quality in the squad capable of replacing him, there have to be questions as to whether Portugal are better with or without the great forward. A 4-2-3-1 formation with a front four of Andre Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Joao Felix, and Bernardo Silva, took Nigeria apart in a friendly match last week. Could this be a plausible alternative for Portugal?
Ronaldo missed the warm-up match through illness, although in the context of his recent interview, Santos was asked whether this was a factor in his absence.
“If it was any other player, you would not ask that question,” Santos responded to a question from Sky Sports.
“It’s a fact that he’s suffering from gastroenteritis and any player can struggle if you’re suffering from gastroenteritis. It’s a fact, so he is not ready to play tomorrow.”
Ghana go into the tournament with a number of the old guard – the Ayew brothers, Thomas Partey, Daniel Amartey – but their squad is mainly weighted towards youth and inexperience.
Quite a number of the new faces are recent declarers to Ghana, such as Bristol City’s Antoine Semenyo, who scored in Ghana’s friendly win over Switzerland. Brighton’s Tariq Lamptey and Southampton’s Mohammed Salisu are also new options that add much more quality and depth to the Ghanaian squad.
The concern with this is whether the team is going to be as unified and well-drilled as one might have expected. But even if the Black Stars are defeated here, they must target points against Uruguay and South Korea.
Portugal have won three of their last six matches 4-0, scoring 16 times without conceding in that timeframe.
Ronaldo’s scoring record stands at 117 goals for Portugal, and he could become the first player in men’s football history to score at 10 consecutive major international tournaments.
Joao Palhinha has made more tackles than any player across Europe’s top seven leagues this season so far (65) but is behind Ruben Neves and William Carvalho in the holding-midfield pecking order.
Ghana qualified through away goals after drawing both legs of their playoff with Nigeria, who Portugal thrashed last week. Andre Ayew broke the Ghanaian appearance record previously held by Asamoah Gyan last week but is some way off Gyan’s scoring record of 51 goals for Ghana. Ayew could, however, become the first men’s player for an African nation to make eight World Cup appearances.
Mohammed Kudus is another player to look out for. The 22-year-old has enjoyed a breakthrough scoring season for Ajax and will be aiming to translate that form to the World Cup. Not short of self-belief, the Ajax midfielder-cum-forward has suggested his skill-set is on a par with Brazil superstar Neymar.
“He’s not better than me,” Kudus told The Guardian. “He’s just a higher profile player, that’s all.
“He was defending his country and I was defending mine,” Kudus commented about the two nations’ recent friendly in September. “I wasn’t about to let him push me around. What makes him better, for now, is that he has achieved a lot. I’ll get there soon.”