Cristiano Ronaldo will be hoping to grab the limelight once again (for on-the-pitch reasons) in what will surely be his final hurrah for his international side. His Portugal team will come into the tournament as dark horses beginning with a fixture looks that looks an easy start on paper. Although I’m sure Lionel Messi thought the same thing.
If you’re planning on placing a bet builder, there’s a few things I’ll draw your attention to. First up, obviously the stats below. They’ll give you details for goals, shots, corners and cards from the European WC qualifiers and AFCON respectively so you can pick some winning selections.
Secondly, I’ve written up a Stats Pack Guide on how to use the data most effectively.
Thirdly, there’s a great sign up offer that you can use on your first bet to get you £50 in free bets for the next week of World Cup action.
Head Coach Fernando Santos has favoured a 4-2-3-1 formation in many of Portugal’s recent fixtures and two from Joao Palhinha, Ruben Neves and William Carvalho should anchor midfield ahead of a flat back four today.
Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva and rapid AC Milan winger Rafael Leao could be deployed either side of Bruno Fernandes, while Cristiano Ronaldo should win his 192nd cap up front in what will be his fifth World Cup tournament.
hana tend to use a system that’s similar in structure to Portugal’s with two holding midfielders providing a solid platform for the Black Stars’ more attack-minded players further forward.
Arsenal’s Thomas Partey is a key operator in midfield, while Ajax’s Mohammed Kudus and Athletic Bilbao’s Inaki Williams have genuine star quality in attack. Williams switched allegiances from Spain to Ghana as recently as July.
Portugal finished second in their World Cup qualification group behind Serbia and had to battle their way through playoff matches against Turkey and North Macedonia to ensure they were on the plane to Qatar.
The Selecao’s underlying stats suggested they have been doing plenty of the right things under Fernando Santos and their goals, xG, shots, shots on target and corners for figures all dwarfed everything their opponents managed to muster in the opposite direction.
Portugal rattled the net 11 times and conceded just three at the other end in six Nations League fixtures in the summer.
I took a look at Ghana’s AFCON’s performances from earlier in the year to get a handle on their big-tournament credentials, however, the Black Stars’ displays and underlying stats in Cameroon were equally dismal.
Ghana earned just one point, exited the group stage and sacked manager Milovan Rajevac shortly after their horror show at AFCON. They notched just 1.0 goal per 90 minutes in Cameroon and allowed opponents to rack up 12.00 shots (p/90) against them.
They look a different prospect under new boss Otto Addo however and their run of eight wins in nine games in the run up to Qatar included a fine 2-0 triumph over Switzerland on November 17th.
Player Shots and Shots on Target
Unsurprisingly, Cristiano Ronaldo was a rapid-fire shooter for Portugal during their qualification campaign, topping both the shots (5.67) and shots on target metrics (5.57) per 90 for the Selecao.
The out-of-work 37-year-old will let fly at every opportunity again today, though your sights on his supporting cast from midfield where former clubmate Bruno Fernandes (1.83 shots p/90) along with City’s Bernardo Silva (1.71) can provide threat.
Interestingly, veteran centre-half Pepe clocked 1.8 attempts per appearance in the Nations League over the summer and the defender could be one to watch out for from set pieces against Ghana.
Andre Ayew (2.17 shots p/90), Joseph Paintsil (1.88), Daniel-Kofi Kyereh (2.00) and Thomas Partey (2.67) all tried and failed to make an impact at AFCON and a run through their shots on target figures shines another unflattering light the issues Ghana had in attack at the tournament.
However, Mohammed Kudus – who missed AFCON through injury – and the recently-declared Inaki Williams should add menace to that toothless frontline in Qatar. Kudus has been hitting 4.50 shots per 90 in the Eredivisie with Ajax this term, while Williams has been lodging 2.70 (p/90) in La Liga with Athletic Bilbao.
Player Goals and Assists
Cristiano Ronaldo topped the goal-scoring charts for Portugal during the nation’s qualification campaign, though the 37-year-old has only scored in one of his last nine appearances for his country and five of his WC qualifier goals were notched in two games vs Luxembourg and the Republic of Ireland.
Bruno Fernandes has plundered three goals in his last three runouts for Portugal. The midfielder hit a brace in a friendly against Nigeria last week while Ronaldo watched from the stands and Bruno tends to play much better when Cristiano doesn’t feature.
21-year-old starlet Goncalo Ramos could be an option if he makes it off the bench against Ghana. The striker has been in superb form for Benfica (14 goals in 21 games) this term and he marked his debut for Portugal with a goal against Nigeria.
Andrew Ayew, who is the leading scorer in the Ghanaian World Cup squad with 23 goals, Alexander Dijku and Richmond Boakye – who didn’t travel to Qatar – were the only Black Stars to impact the scoresheet at AFCON.
32-year-old Ayew was a World Cup goalscorer in 2014, while his brother Jordan found the net four years later in Russia. However, Mohammed Kudus and Inaki Williams are likelier candidates than their older teammates to register in Qatar. That pair have netted 15 times between them at club level since the summer.
Joao Cancelo collected three cards for Portugal during their World Cup qualifiers and similar to his remit with Man City, the 28-year-old is often tasked with committing tactical fouls for his country.
In midfield, Bruno Fernandes has a petulant streak when frustrations get the better of him and he could be one to keep an eye on against a physical Ghanaian side.
While he doesn’t feature below, 39-year-old Pepe has a cynical side to his game that could be exposed by the members of Ghana’s pacey frontline. Pepe has been carded 26 times in 129 appearances for Portugal and nine times in his last 28 league runouts for Porto.
Jordan Ayew (fouled 4.48 times p/90) was kicked from pillar to post at AFCON and at club level for Crystal Palace, the 31-year-old has been fouled a notable 2.1 times per appearance. He could be on the receiving end again today if he drifts near Joao Cancelo.
Thomas Partey (fouled 2.67 times p/90) has the skill set to draw frustrated nips from Bruno Fernandes in midfield, while Inaki Williams, who has been fouled 1.0 times per game in La Liga this season has pace to burn and if he times his surges well, Pepe will be forced to reach into his bag of nasty tricks.
Match-Ups to watch
Joao Cancelo vs Jordan Ayew
Bruno Fernandes vs Thomas Partey
Pepe vs Inaki Williams
Smart bettors will look towards Ghana’s defensive options for suitors to find card candidates for their bet builders today, and alongside Strasbourg centre-half Alexander Dijku and Reading left-back Baba Rahman, Gent midfielder Elisha Owusu should be on your radar.
Dijku committed 1.67 fouls per 90 and collected one caution at AFCON and the 28-year-old has picked up a whopping 63 cards at club level in just 250 matches. Baba Rahman has been booked four times in seven starts for Reading this season, while the tough-tackling Owosu has been shown yellow twice in five starts for Gent in Belgium.
Joao Felix and Renato Sanches are listed among Portugal’s three-most fouled players during the team’s World Cup qualifiers, though the former is expected to start on the bench today while the latter didn’t make the squad for Qatar.
Fulham’s Joao Palhinha (fouled 3.80 times p/90) is a combative presence in midfield for Portugal and his skirmishes with Ghana’s Owuso have the potential to be explosive.
Bruno Fernandes (fouled 1.56 times p/90) will break into the final third to join Cristiano Ronaldo in attack today and his forays forward could put him face-to-face with foul-happy Alexander Dijku.
Elsewhere, Bernardo Silva, who was fouled 2.5 times per game in Portugal’s pair of World Cup playoffs, could make life difficult for Baba Rahman with his exceptional close control and clever movement.
Match-Ups to watch
Alexander Dijku vs Bruno Fernandes
Baba Rahman vs Bernardo Silva
Elisha Owusu vs Joao Palhinha