The final set of FIFA World Cup 2014 group games is upon us—where on earth did the time go?
Here we analyse Portugal vs. Ghana: a game in which both need to win to have any hope of qualifying from Group G, but their futures are not entirely in their own hands.
Portugal look like a broken outfit devoid of confidence, but manager Paulo Bento is remaining upbeat and has reaffirmed his commitment to the job.
"I am aware of my responsibilities and, in April, I reached an agreement with the federation which had nothing to do with the results of the World Cup and was connected to our objectives for 2016," he told reporters, via Express.co.uk.
Despite a flurry of unfortunate injuries and the odds stacked against, Portugal will give qualification a serious go against Ghana.
Cristiano Ronaldo could start up front given ailments to Helder Postiga and Hugo Almeida as well as poor form afflicting Eder during his underwhelming outings. Pepe is back but might not be trusted.
Ghana need to recover a three-goal swing and hope the USA lose to Germany in Group G's other game to qualify for the round of 16.
With Jurgen Klinsmann's men holding a better head-to-head record, the reality is that the Black Stars need a 2-0 win to accompany a 1-0 win for Germany.
Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng have been axed from the Ghana squad, as Nick Akerman of Bleacher Report noted, so Mohammed Rabiu's defensive midfielder partner remains unclear. The obvious choice is Emmanuel Badu.
The 4-2-3-1 will likely remain, but which of the attacking midfield stars on the roster will be chosen to play?
2 Tactical Clashes
1. Who Controls, Who Counters?
Both of these teams are far, far better on the counter-attack than they are in controlled possession.
Mark Lovell of Bleacher Report noted how attacking Ghana can be in their draw with Germany.
Some interesting stats: Ghana had 19 shots on goal to Germany’s 12, while the Black Stars were caught offside five times compared to Germany’s sole occasion.
The game could have gone either way with both sides admirably going for the win. Germany’s gung-ho tactics almost cost them dearly as Ghana spurned a glorious opportunity on the counter-attack, when outnumbering the Germans, 5-2, with just a few minutes to play.
Portugal's on-the-ball dominance can be significantly improved by utilising William Carvalho in place of Miguel Veloso, but Bento will likely remain too stubborn to displace his favoured No. 4.
Whoever manages to construct the most counter-attacks has the highest chance of winning, with Ronaldo bursting into space at one end and Christian Atsu doing the same at the other.
2. Behind Almeida
Andre Almeida is unlikely to play such an adventurous role from left-back against Ghana this time around, as the U.S. continually burned him by sending Fabian Johnson buccaneering forward into the spaces he left.
There will still be space to take advantage of, though, and in Atsu, Ghana have the ideal tricky winger to occupy it. What will need to improve is the speedster's decision-making: He was their best and most creative player against the USA, but his final-third decision-making was absolutely awful.
Bleacher Report will do a tactical preview and review of every single 2014 FIFA World Cup game. Stay tuned to this link and check it every day for more.
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