Ghana: Black Stars Must Win or Head Home

Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix
Asamoah Gyan celebrates his and Ghana's only goal in the match with Brazil.

Both Ghana and Portugal must go for the win if they are to have any chance of reaching the second round of the World Cup when the teams meet in Brasilia on Thursday.

OVERVIEW

An opening game defeat to the USA mean that Ghana have to do it the hard way if they are to progress to the knockout stages, and that means beating Portugal and hoping Germany do the same to the Americans.

Ghana showed enough in their first two games to suggest that it is possible, but will enter the match with some regret at the situation they find themselves in.

They equalized late against the USA in their opener and then allowed a free-header at a corner, enabling the Americans to snatch the points in the dying minutes. At least one point was dropped there.

Then, having come from behind to lead Germany in the second half of their next match, another soft goal allowed the European side to equalize. Two more points gone.

So Ghana could have been in a much stronger position than they are now. However, there is nothing they can do about the past, the can only look forward to the challenge ahead of them.

Portugal have yet to fire in this competition, with injuries, red cards and atrocious defending against them. That they find themselves going into this game with a chance of reaching the Last 16 at all is a minor miracle, and they need to win big and hope the USA lose to make the most unlikely of comebacks.

Central to their bid will be Cristiano Ronaldo, the player who makes them tick and upon whom they rely so heavily for inspiration. Ghana will have to find a way to counter him.

The good news is that midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng and defender John Boye are both back in full training. The key pair were injured in the 2-2 draw with Germany on Saturday, but will be fit to face Portugal.

The Ghana players also appear to have been appeased over unpaid match fees after the president of the country, John Dramani Mahama, had to step in and assure the players they would be paid on Wednesday.

KEY PLAYERS

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) - The reigning FIFA Ballon d'Or winner remains the key man for a Portuguese side whose World Cup has been nothing short of a disaster so far. He was helpless against Germany but did create the equaliser against USA that kept Portugal's hopes alive. As ever, he holds the key for this Portugal team.

Andre Ayew (Ghana) - Ayew has now scored in consecutive matches for Ghana and looks in top form. He is a clinical finisher and the Black Stars will look to get the ball to him as much as possible in the box.

Along with Asamoah Gyan, he is their chief goals threat.

WHAT THEY SAY

Paulo Bento (Portugal coach) - "All we can do is to give everything in our last game and try and make the most of the very little chance that we have left."

Kwesi Appiah (Ghana coach) - "You can only stop Cristiano Ronaldo, the best player in the world, by working as a team. We can't let him show what he can do. It's important that we don't allow Ronaldo to play his game. We will study their game, but it's not only him, it's the whole team."

MATCH FACTS

Date: Thursday, June 26

Kick-off: 16h00 (GMT)

Venue: Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha, Brasília

Referee: Nawaf Shukralla (Bahrain)

GHANA HEAD-TO-HEAD VS PORTUGAL

This will be the first meeting between the nations.

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