Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo suffers no delusions regarding his team's chances against Ghana, but he couldn't quite concede defeat prior to Thursday's epic World Cup match.
"We’ve all given our best,” said Ronaldo, via the Daily Mirror's David McDonnell. “It’s virtually impossible now, but this is football."
Ronaldo's right, this is indeed soccer, and it's soccer at a World Cup that has pretty much discarded anything resembling rhyme or reason. Ghana has put on two fierce, intelligent displays of attacking soccer so far, and they will be looking to leapfrog the United States to move into the Round of 16.
For Portugal, it appears as though little more than pride at stake, but they do still have a chance of advancing and anything can happen at this topsy-turvy World Cup.
Here is the live stream, viewing info and match preview for this pivotal Group G contest.
Portugal vs. Ghana Live Stream, Viewing Info
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Time (ET): 12 p.m.
Where: Estadio Nacional de Brasilia, Brazil
Ronaldo and Silvestre Varela combined for an epic stoppage-time, gut-punching goal to tie the United States at 2-2 in their previous World Cup match on Sunday; all it did, though, was improve Portugal's chances of moving on to the Round of 16 from nil to slim.
According to FiveThirtyEight's World Cup forecasting feature, Portugal have a 4.5 percent chance of escaping this World Cup's "Group of Death" (apologies to Group D). A sliver of hope combined with national and personal pride provides them with plenty to play for on this grand stage.
Ronaldo is the key to Portugal's hopes. He played poorly against the United States, sending passes and shots wayward all match long.
His struggles have been enough for Bundesliga Fanatic's Cristian Nyari to leave him out of the discussion for best players at this year's World Cup:
All the big players stepping up this World Cup. Messi, Neymar, Robben, Muller, Suarez. Well almost all of them....Ronaldo....— Cristian Nyari (@Cnyari) June 25, 2014
If Ronaldo continues to disappoint, Portugal will not be able to keep up with Ghana's attack.
The Black Stars showed Germany that they aren't afraid to mix it up and put players forward. Their relentless style netted them a 2-2 draw against one of the most talented teams playing in Brazil this year. Ghana racked up 18 shots—six of them on target—while holding the ball just 38 percent of the match, per WhoScored.com.
Ghana should also be feeling confident with Asamoah Gyan on the field and scoring like he did against Germany. ESPN Stats & Info points out his impact on the team:
The Independent's Joe Krishnan hailed Ghana's ability to move forward in attack, even in the late stages of the game:
87 minutes and #GHA bombing it forward at every opportunity. Incredible athleticism.— Joe Krishnan (@joekrishnan) June 21, 2014
Portugal should get a defensive boost with the return of Pepe; he received a one-match ban for a red card he was issued against Germany. The stalwart centre-back believes his team can still advance.
What will be Ghana's outcome at the conclusion of its match against Portugal?
It will indeed be miraculous if Portugal can rack up enough goals against Ghana to make up for the goal-differential tiebreaker against the United States.
Portugal's best bet at moving on will be absorbing the waves of attacking pressure from Ghana and then trying to strike quickly on the counter with Ronaldo, Eder or Nani. Portugal have the speed to punish Ghana when the likes of Christian Atsu, Harrison Afful and Kwadwo Asamoah get caught upfield.
The momentum is with Ghana in this match. Portugal have too many key players struggling for form and fitness heading into this match. Portugal will likely become the next team from continental Europe, the preeminent network for the global game, to falter in the 2014 World Cup.