The race for the last 16 is well and truly on in Group G, with both Portugal and Ghana still in with realistic chances of progressing.
Though the USA currently hold second place in the group, a victory by the right margin for either side in Brasilia together with a loss for the Americans will mean a place in the last 16.
Both sides will fancy their chances of doing just that, and with so much at stake it’s bound to be a thriller in the Brazilian capital.
Venue: Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha, Brasilia
Date: Thursday, June 26
Time: 5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET
TV Info: BBC (TBC)/ESPN2 (U.S.)
Portugal to Fight until the Bitter End
Portugal were a matter of seconds away from being eliminated from the World Cup during their 2-2 draw with USA on Sunday, but Silvestre Varela’s last-gasp equaliser kept them in the tournament by the skin of their teeth.
The 29-year-old stooped to head Portugal level, earning them a crucial point, but it was Cristiano Ronaldo’s pin-point cross that did the damage—as Jason deVos remarked upon:
Ronaldo hasn’t exactly had his way in the World Cup so far, failing to make an impact against both Germany and USA in Group G.
However, big games call for big players, and while Ronaldo may be quiet at times, he has the ability to change a game in a split second—his cross for Varela proved as much.
The Porto star’s finish was excellent, and it showed the kind of grit and belief that he says the Portuguese must show once again if they’re to progress—per FIFA.com:
Things still look pretty bleak for us. We wanted the win and we’re a bit down about how the game went. We have to keep on believing though. Playing for Portugal gives us strength and we’ll fight till the last minute. That’s what the team did. We battled and battled, even if it wasn’t enough to get the win. We now have to go and win our last game and hope that things happen elsewhere.
Winning their last game will mean disposing of a Ghana side that have a habit of shaking up proceedings in the World Cup and looked good value for their point against Germany on Saturday.
Their free-flowing, attacking football had the highly rated Germans on the ropes for large spells of a match that’s been labelled by many as the most entertaining of the World Cup so far—including Simon Cowell:
I thought the Germany Ghana game was the best so far in the World Cup.— Simon Cowell (@SimonCowell) June 22, 2014
That’s no surprise, though, Ghana bring something special to the world stage, and their exciting tactics are matched by their superb celebratory dance moves, as Super 6 revealed:
It's a start but we reckon the Ghana team could make this celebration something really special in the later stages. https://t.co/Kp4liiVITi— Super 6 (@Super6) June 22, 2014
Thursday’s match is one whereby both teams need to go all out for the victory, but the setup that Ghana manager James Kwesi Appiah has means that the African nation never go for anything else.
Their front line of Christian Atsu, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Andre Ayew and Asamoah Gyan has caused defences endless trouble already, with the latter pair helping themselves to goals.
Ayew has scored in both of Ghana’s matches so far, and with Portugal’s defence looking easy to breach, he’ll be confident of adding to his tally on Thursday.
Ghana’s goal difference means that any win should be enough to see them through in the event of a USA loss, but it’s never as simple as that.
Both sides will be so desperate to win that it could be an incredibly open game, with goals once again raining down on Group G.
Portugal’s form suggests that they won’t have enough to cross the line, particularly with Ronaldo not at full fitness, and Ghana may just have the final say on proceedings.
Prediction: Portugal 2-3 Ghana