Portugal begin their quest for the World Cup 2022 on Thursday when they lock horns with Ghana in their Group H opener at Doha’s Stadium 974.
Fernando Santos’ side will also face Uruguay and South Korea in a tricky group, but considering the talent they possess, they are favourites to go through to the round of 16 as Group H winners.
Thus, a winning start is vital against Ghana, who are back with the big boys after a brief absence from the 2018 World Cup and head into this game off the back of an impressive 2-0 friendly win over Switzerland last week.
Cristiano Ronaldo, who has mutually terminated his contract with Manchester United, with immediate effect, after an explosive sit-down interview with Piers Morgan, missed Portugal’s friendly win over Nigeria with an illness last week but has declared himself fit and ready to go against Ghana.
As a result, Fernando Santos will have a fully-fit squad at his disposal this week to select his strongest XI for Thursday’s World Cup opener.
Diogo Costa has been in excellent form for FC Porto this season and is likely to oust Rui Patricio as the number one at the World Cup in Qatar. He will be bidding to start the campaign with a clean sheet against Ghana.
In front of Costa, a back four of Joao Cancelo, Pepe, Ruben Dias and Nuno Mendes are expected to start in the Portugal lineup.
The experience of Pepe will come in handy on such a big stage as the veteran defender hopes to leave a mark with a solid, age-defying performance. He will partner Dias in central defence, and the duo will be tasked to keep the Ghana forwards at bay.
Cancelo’s pace, crossing ability and playmaking skills could be key in initiating attacks from the right. He should get the nod ahead of Dalot at right-back, while Mendes hopes to enjoy a productive evening from the left-back position.
William Carvalho should hold the midfield for Portugal, protecting the shaky backline as well as providing license to the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Ruben Neves to venture forward and create opportunities in the final third.
Fernandes is a match-winner on his day and will look to exploit the spaces behind the Ghana backline. As for Neves, the Wolves star could be tasked with keeping things tidy in the middle of the park.
Cristiano Ronaldo is nailed-on to lead the Portugal lineup against the Black Stars, and he will be raring to make a huge impression on the biggest stage of the sport. Joining the captain up front will be Bernardo Silva and Rafael Leao in the Portugal lineup.
Silva’s creativity, smartness and vision combined with the pace and flair of Leao should make Portugal a devastating entity from wide areas.
Joao Felix, Andre Silva and Otavio could get opportunities to make an impact in the second half of the game, as Santos aims for a winning start in Qatar.
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