Four years ago Uruguay and Portugal met in the Round of 16 with Edinson Cavani’s brace sending Uruguay through before losing to eventual champions France in the quarters.
Portugal on paper are the favorites but haven’t proven consistently enough that they can get out of the knockout stages for me to consider them a legit contender to go all the way. Despite being likely to get out of the group, South Korea and Ghana are also teams that are no strangers to the next round and have recent runs into the quarterfinals and beyond.
So it is up to the old guard of mercurial legends of Suarez and Ronaldo to keep their powerhouse countries on move into the knockout rounds lest Son Heung-Min and the Ayew’s get other ideas.
Thurs, Nov. 24, Uruguay vs. South Korea, 8 a.m. Education City Stadium - FS1, Telemundo
Thurs, Nov. 24, Portugal vs. Ghana, 11 a.m. Stadium 974 - FOX, Telemundo
Mon, Nov. 28, South Korea vs. Ghana, 8 a.m. Education City Stadium - FS1, Telemundo
Mon, Nov. 28, Portugal vs. Uruguay, 2 p.m. Lusail Stadium - FOX, Telemundo
Fri, Dec. 2, South Korea vs. Portugal, 10 a.m. Education City Stadium - FOX, Telemundo
Fri, Dec. 2, Ghana vs. Uruguay, 10 a.m. Al Janoub Stadium - FS1, Universon
GHANA [GHA / H2 – Pot 4]
Head Coach: Otto Addo (GHA/GER)
Nickname: The Black Stars
Rankings: FIFA 61 / ELO 67
Qualification: CAF Second Round Group G Winners; Won Aggregate Playoff vs Nigeria 1-1, on away goals
Appearance: 4th / Best Finish: Quarterfinals (201)
Official. Ghana squad for 2022 World Cup. #WorldCup2022 pic.twitter.com/fFADSLsYj9— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) November 14, 2022
Recent Results: Int’l Friendly – W vs Switzerland 2-0; W vs Nicaragua 1-0
Players You Should Know: FWD Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace/ENG) and MID Andre Ayew (Al-Saad/QAT), Combined 194 Int’l Caps / 42 Goals
Player You Should Watch: FWD Inaki Williams (Athletic Bilbao/ESP) and DEF Tariq Lamptey (Brighton and Hove/ENG), Combined 5 Int’l Caps with Ghana
I have a tremendous amount of respect for Ghana and their World Cup rivarly with the USA which has given the world a ton of entertainment. But this team feels very far from that great 2010 squad despite the Ayew’s still being a major part of the roster. This is an incredibly young team that needed a home win in the African group stage against South Africa on the final day to make the final round but did get some late roster additions from the England born Lamptey and Spanish born Willaims who switched over the summer to represent Ghana.
I think the Black Stars have a puncher’s chance to at least spoil someone’s trip to the knockout stages. This group still feels a cycle away from being a darkhorse knockout threat and might have more England based reinforcements to count on in 2026. But that friendly win against a full strength Switzerland team proves this team could be dangerous right now especially against a couple of mercurial favorites in Portugal and Uruguay.
PORTUGAL [POR / H1 – Pot 1]
Head Coach: Fernandos Santos (POR)
Nickname: A Seleção (The Selection) / Os Navegadores (The Navigators)
Rankings: FIFA 9 / ELO 6
Qualification: UEFA Group A Second Place; UEFA Path C Playoff Winners – W 3-1 vs Turkey; W 2-0 vs North Macedonia
Appearance: 8th / Best Finish: Third Place 1966
Cristiano Ronaldo will play in his FIFTH World Cup as Portugal reveal their 26-man squad. pic.twitter.com/PigTLoEkoZ— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) November 10, 2022
Recent Results: Int’l Friendly – W 4-0 vs Nigeria; UEFA Nations League A Flight Group 2 – L 0-1 vs Spain, W 4-0 at Czech Republic
Player You Should Know/Watch: MID Bruno Fernandes, Manchester Utd (ENG), 49 Int’l Caps / 11 Int’l Goals
This team can be world class and I think they are better without Cristiano Ronaldo who is proving to be a tremendous distraction right now. I know Ronaldo scored the bulk of the goals in qualifying, no one will deny his scoring prowess. But for all their success in the Euro knockouts, at the World Cup in the Ronaldo Era they’ve only advanced into the Round of 16 three times out of five and only once did they get out of that round when the reached the semis in 2006.
This is a very tricky group and Portugal tends to be highly questionable and less than dominant in the group stages. They absolutely need a win in the opener against Ghana or face an uphill battle to get out of the group. Ronaldo has gotten his nation to the point of being a regular at the World Cup, let’s see if he can also hand it off to the players that will be keeping it there for decades to come.
SOUTH KOREA [KOR / H4 – Pot 3]
Head Coach: Paulo Bento (POR)
Nickname: Taegeuk Warriors / Tigers of Asia
Rankings: FIFA 28/ ELO 27
Qualification: AFC Third Round Group A Runners-up
Appearance: 11th / Best Finish: Fourth Place (2002)
Korea Republic National Football Team World Cup Squad 2022 pic.twitter.com/gWgI5O6LHl— FOOTBALL for EVERYONE (@Football4Evry1) November 12, 2022
Recent Results: Int’l Friendly – W 1-0 vs Iceland, W 1-0 vs Cameroon, D 2-2 vs Costa Rica
Player You Should Know: F/M Son Heung-Min, Tottenham Hotspur (ENG), 104 Int’l Caps / 35 Int’l Goals
Player You Should Watch: MID Hwang Hee-Chan, Wolverhampton (ENG), 49 Int’l Caps / 9 Int’l Goals
Ever since that magical semifinal run as hosts in 2002, South Korea have only returned to the knockout stages only once – a one and done trip to the Round of 16 in 2010. Against another really tough group as a Pot 3 team, I just don’t know if they have a talent in the back of the formation to hold off the big teams. Aside from Kim Min-Jae at Napoli, almost every other defender and keeper plays domestically and while there’s a lot of experience at the international level back there, it’s a big jump up at the World Cup level.
Son Heung-Min is a global level star but at 30 years old he’s probably only got one more cycle at peak superstar levels and if he can pull off a game for the ages I think an upset win is entirely possible for this team. The midfield should be good enough to keep them in games and find the few chances they’ll need to find that elusive pair of results that can get them into the knockouts.
URUGUAY [URU / H3 – Pot 2]
Head Coach: Diego Alonso (URU)
Nickname: La Celeste
Rankings: FIFA 14 / ELO 11
Qualification: CONEMBOL Round Robin 3rd Place
Appearance: 14th / Best Finish: Champions (1930, 1950)
Uruguay's World Cup roster is set pic.twitter.com/E234ivXMfG— B/R Football (@brfootball) November 11, 2022
Recent Results: Int’l Friendly – W 2-0 vs Canada, L 0-1 vs Iran
Players You Should Know: FWDs Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, Combined 167 Int’l Caps / 126 goals
Player You Should Watch: MID Giorgian de Arrascaeta, Flamengo (BRA), 40 Int’l Caps / 8 Goals
Uruguay was clearly a step below Argentina and Brazil in qualifying, and their defense (22 goals allowed) is certainly a cause for concern. Obviously if this is the last go around for Cavani and Suarez, they’ll go out with the 2011 Copa America title and at least a couple of quarterfinals at the World Cup. Arrascaeta tallied a handful of goals in qualifying and could be another option for this team during the group stage and beyond. This team has proven that if they get to the knockouts, they can advance deeper into the later rounds and are fully capable of doing so again.
I think Portugal’s chances of not only getting out of the group but getting that elusive knockout stage win comes down solely to Ronaldo’s composure in the locker room. I don’t think Portugal are a complete unit with him on the field for 90 minutes, but starting for 60 minutes or off the bench for 30 he can still prove to be a decisive factor.
Portugal are still potentially the class of this group and despite Uruguay’s struggles defensively in qualifying they’ve been really good so far this calendar year. If this is the year Cavani and Suarez pass the torch to Darwin Nunez and the younger generation, they can still go out with another solid performance. I would like to see Korea grab that second spot which means knocking off one of the favorites which they did on the final matchday against Germany last World Cup group stage despite already being eliminated.
Ronaldo’s going out having never beaten the USA at a World Cup and I think he goes home early this year too.
Uruguay - South Korea - Portugal - Ghana