World Cup 2014 Group G preview: Portugal v Ghana
It is still possible Ghana (5/1) or Portugal (8/1) could qualify for the knockout phase, but they will be relying on Germany beating the USA, a decisive outcome between themselves and the appropriate swing in goal difference.
The Black Stars need that to be just two, while the Navigators are more up against it, requiring five. Odds of 10/1 say the Europeans’ total goals will be over 3.5.
Paulo Bento has got the dreaded backing of the Portuguese FA. He was rewarded with a two-year contract extension in April – a move which will look foolish if the Iberian outfit bow out of the Brazil finals by failing to win here.
Bento’s boys are 5/4 favourites for victory, however, while Ghana are 21/10, and it’s 5/2 on a draw. Backing the Black Stars may be beneficial because, although they have never met before in a senior international, they have always beaten Portugal in youth World Cup contests. A repeat of the 2-0 scorelines in Ghana’s favour from previous encounters at Under-20 and Under-17 levels comes in at a tasty 22/1.
In their respective last outings, the Navigators and Ghana were both involved in absorbing 2-2 draws. That outcome will send the duo home, however, but a repeat result is 11/1. For Portugal, inspirational captain Cristiano Ronaldo has to perform now.
Real Madrid’s superstar has clearly been carrying the wear and tear of a gruelling club campaign. To give the Navigators a realistic chance of sneaking through this pool, he needs to hit a hat-trick here. Charged with a similar requirement just to get Portugal to the Brazil finals in the play-offs against Sweden, he delivered. Back Ronaldo to take the match ball home with him at 12/1.
Bento has been let down by his strikers. Hugo Almedia and Helder Postiga have taken hefty criticism over the years for simply not being predecessors Pauleta and Nuno Gomes. Eder has hardly been an able deputy for the injury-prone pair in attack either. The Navigators must look instead to other wide players to help them steer this tough course through to the last 16.
Nani and Silvestre Varela must try to build on the goals that took a point off the USA. Odds of 2/1 say Manchester United’s inconsistent winger Nani will score again anytime. Varela of Porto, meanwhile, is 7/1 to net last.
Ghanaian goals look likely to come from Asmoah Gyan and the Ayew brothers, Andre and Jordan. Former Sunderland striker Gyan wears the Black Stars armband, so back that responsibility to sit well on his broad shoulders by him scoring anytime at 7/4. Jordan Ayew is a shorter price at 2/1, than older sibling Andre (11/4), in the same market.
Chelsea-owned wideman Christian Atsu has also caught the eye. His endeavour against Germany was endearing and he can be relied upon to cross for teammates or have a pop himself if nobody is up in support. It’s 11/2 on Atsu grabbing a goal here.
Sulley Muntari is suspended and has been sent home alongside Kevin-Prince Boateng due to breaches of discipline, though James Kwesi Appiah has Michael Essien to step into the engine room. Odds of 9/1 say he will roll back the years by scoring anytime.