Ghana Black Stars will take on their Portuguese counterparts on Thursday afternoon in their opening match at the ongoing world cup in Qatar.
Otto Addo’s men are underdogs heading into the clash with the dethroned European champions who have five time Ballon d’Or winner Christiano Ronaldo in their ranks alongside several other top talents.
However, this is the World Cup and anything is possible. Saudi Arabia showed that teamwork is the greatest weapon against individual brilliance after coming from behind to beat Argentina 2-1 despite a seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi playing full throttle for the Albiceleste.
Ghana head into the match on a positive note after beating Switzerland 2-0 in a pre-World Cup game last Thursday. The result has sparked optimism in Ghana for the Black Stars following a string of unconvincing performances in previous games that swayed fans away from the team.
So we look what who are the men Otto Addo will entrust with the duty of leading the Black Stars against the Portuguese on Thursday. Ghana’s squad is the youngest in the tournament and considered as the most unpredictable due to the quality of the individual players in the squad.
Goalkeeper: Lawrence Ati-Zigi
Ati-Zigi was not wanted by many Ghanaians in the squad due to his bad outings with the Black Stars but with an injury to first-choice goalkeeper Jojo Wollacott, many had no options but to accept that Zigi will be in the squad. However, the majority expected Abdul Manaf Nurudeen to start despite his poor form with club side as compared to Ati-Zigi. Against the Swiss, Otto Addo tasked Zigi with keeping the post for the Stars and he excelled and has won the praise of Ghanaians and thus many would hope to see him maintain his place against the Portuguese.
Left-back: Baba Rahman.
The Reading FC full-back is not the same person Ghanaians saw prior to his injury during the 2017 AFCON and many have written him off a place in the team. However, he has continuously been given chances by successive coaches and started also against the Swiss. He will be expected to retain that spot ahead of Gideon Mensah.
Right-back: Tariq Lamptey.
Denis Odoi seem to have locked down that area while shoving out Reading’s Andy Yiadom but a new addition Tariq Lamptey has pushed the Club Brugge full-back down the pecking order. Tariq started against Switzerland and did well for the period he was on the pitch and will be expected to hold down that place.
Centre-backs: Salisu Mohammed and Daniel Amartey
Prior to Salisu’s commitment to the Black Stars cause, a pair of Daniel Amartey and Alexander Djiku made the central defense their own. However, the Southampton man was not expected to warm the bench due to his quality and height. Considering that the coach will opt for a four-man defense against Portugal, we opt to maintain the Amartey and Salisu partnership.
Central midfield: Thomas Partey and Salis Abdul Samed
Thomas Partey is certain to start against the Portuguese despite missing the last three friendlies. Elisha Owusu partnered Salis in central midfield against Switzerland earned himself praises but we expect Partey to get back into the side to pair up there with Salis.
Attacking midfield: Andre Ayew
Many fans of the Black Stars have questioned the essence of Andre Ayew to the team but his quality and contributions cannot be underwritten. It is true that he is not he same as five years ago or before but his leadership and experience are valuable assets needed against any team in the tournament. He is one of only two World Cup veterans in the squad alongside his younger brother Jordan. Daniel-Kofi Kyereh will thus settle for a place on the bench against the Portuguese and come on as a substitute.
Right-winger: Jordan Ayew
Just like the elder Ayew, Jordan has come under strict criticism for his lack of goals but his coaches definitely see beyond goals. His work rate and ability to hold the ball and control play in the opponent’s half have been lauded. So inasmuch as we don’t expect goals from Jordan though we he scores, his role in the team will be vital against a talented and more experienced Portugal.
Left-winger: Kudus Mohammed
The Ajax forward has played a striker this season for his club and has scored a number of goals. He has scored 10 goals for Ajax in all competitions this season and Ghana will be looking at using those goal-scoring abilities against the Portuguese. So we expect him to form part of the attacking trio upfront for the Black Stars.
Striker: Inaki Williams
The Athletic Club striker has experience playing at the highest level for years and is good at running behind the defense to cause havoc. Antoine Semenyo came in against Switzerland and scored but we don’t think that is enough to push Inaki to the bench. The centre-forward is yet find the net in three appearances for the Black Stars and doing that against Portugal will be a dream.