December 6, 2022

Group H at the 2022 World Cup consists of Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay and South Korea.

Here we take a look at the four nations and rate their chances of qualifying for the knockout rounds.

Here is our preview of Group H.

Portugal

Manager: Fernando Santos

Star Player: Cristiano Ronaldo

Historical Best Performance at a World Cup: Third Place in 1966

Interestingly, since their 2016 Euro win, there have been more Portuguese players coming out of the woodwork with extraordinary talent yet at the two tournaments since then, they have bowed out at the last 16 stages.

The expectations have increased both from Os Navegadores faithful and from their opponents as well. They are well respected thus teams will concede less space as they have attackers to truly hurt them if left unattended.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s danger is too much of a known quantity to even bother going over but there is the supporting cast of Bruno Fernandes, Joao Felix, Diogo Jota, Bernardo Silva, Rafael Leao etc.

That’s not to mention the midfield quality of Matheus Nunes, Ruben Neves, Joao Palhinha, Vitinha, Joao Moutinho and Renato Sanches.

It doesn’t stop there. When you are able to boast Joao Cancelo, Ruben Dias, Nuno Mendes, Diogo Dalot and Pepe in defence, this is a team that should be the favourites. The number of quality players that have been left off this list shows the strength in depth.

The only drawback is the manager himself. While there is some debate about other countries’ managers holding them back, there is no debate with Portugal. It is only him that will stop them from fulfilling their potential if he is unable to find a good combination in his first XI.

Ghana

Manager: Otto Addo

Star Player: Thomas Partey

Historical Best Performance at a World Cup: Quarter Final in 2010

Ghana’s exit from the 2010 World Cup is as infamous as it can get. Their entry into this World Cup came courtesy of a victory in the Jollof Derby, beating Nigeria on away goals.

With that victory, came a slew of new entrants in the squad, like Tariq Lamptey, Mohammed Salisu and Inaki Williams.

Their group stage exit at AFCON was unexpected but they have made up for it with this qualification and have changed the structure in order to prepare for this World Cup.

Their new additions will come with the regular call-ups like the Ayew brothers, Daniel Amartey, Denis Odoi and Thomas Partey from previous generations.

The formative talents of Kamaldeen Sulemana, Felix Afena-Gyan and Mohammed Kudus. The latter especially has to be handled carefully because for Ajax this season he has mainly been employed in a withdrawn striker role.

He is an offensive midfielder and if not for the Amsterdam club holding firm, he might have been plying his trade with Everton this season. Alas, he is still with Ajax and has started the season on fire.

With Ghana though, he was played as one of the two deepest midfielders where he cannot affect the game as he wishes.

He should be freed to attack as he does at club level. If that is enough to make a difference in replicating 2010, it is unlikely. The group is tough and it will be difficult to navigate a way out of it.

Uruguay

Manager: Diego Alonso

Star Player: Luis Suarez

Historical Best Performance at a World Cup: Winners in 1930 and 1950

The infamous picture of Jose Gimenez crying in the wall as France were about to step up to play a free kick is one that can characterise the emotion of the country that is Uruguay.

The players are ones that you can see are willing to die on the line. Suarez showed it (not quite literally). With the passion, they have produced players capable of making magic out of nothing. Edinson Cavani’s brace against Portugal in the last 16 shows that.

But the past generation are getting old and the new ones have to be ushered in. This is with Diego Alonso, who replaced Oscar Tabarez, the first new manager in 15 years.

So he is having to straddle with phasing out the players like Diego Godin, Cavani, Martin Caceres, Fernando Muslera and Suarez whilst introducing players like Darwin Nunez, Facundo Pellistri, Manuel Ugarte, Agustin Martinez etc.

Fortunately, he has a middle ground of experienced players in their prime. Rodrigo Bentancur, Federico Valverde, Nicolas De La Cruz, Lucas Torreira, and Matias Vina are some examples of those in that age group.

Their problem is that the real star quality lies in the elder statesmen. Alonso will have to find a way to limit their drawbacks whilst still making the team robust and competitive.

It won’t be such a problem in the group but later on in the tournament, it might come back to bite them.

South Korea

Manager: Paulo Bento

Star Player: Son Heung-min

Historical Best Performance at a World Cup: Fourth Place in 2002

Of all the teams, I think South Korea have the biggest disparity between their best player and their second-best player.

For many, this would be a denigration to the other players but quite frankly, for a country like the Taegeuk Warriors, to have a player like Son Heung-min is just a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

He has a conversation to being one of the best wingers in the world and will be the best Asian player to do it once he has completed his career.

What they now have now compared to before is a coach that has been at the highest level like the Champions League in Paulo Bento.

He is one of those coaches who focuses on solidity first than he does on how his team will score the next goal.

He has even come into criticism from the press about the team’s turgid attacking style. He is steadfast in his opinion that the team works within the tactical framework and doing that will hopefully get the best out of Son.

Hwang Hee-Chan is a good enough dovetail to support the main man and Kim Min-Jae at the back has been impressive with this burgeoning Napoli team.

Alike the Ghanaians, it will be difficult to see them get out of this group. However, if they set up as Bento usually does, then they will be very difficult opponents to face.

How to watch Group H – What channel is it on?

24 November, 13:00: Uruguay v South Korea – BBC

24 November, 16:00: Portugal v Ghana – ITV

28 November, 13:00: South Korea v Ghana – BBC

28 November, 19:00: Portugal v Uruguay – ITV

2 December, 16:00: Ghana v Uruguay – BBC

2 December, 16:00: South Korea v Portugal – BBC
World Cup trophy

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