2022 FIFA World Cup Preview and Predictions: Group H
The 2022 FIFA World Cup is fast approaching and we are bringing you a preview of every group ahead of the tournament, offering an insight into each team, as well as predictions as to who will progress to the knockout rounds. Below, we preview Group H, the final group in the tournament, that contains Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, inaugural World Cup champions Uruguay, 2010 quarter-finalists Ghana and 2002 hosts South Korea.
All the headlines in the media at the moment, not even just in the sports media, but the general media too, are talking about Cristiano Ronaldo and his divulging interview with Piers Morgan. However, we’re here to focus on the football and the World Cup.
At the ripe old age of 37, Ronaldo may be playing at his last-ever World Cup in Qatar. Although they finished in third place in 1966, Portugal have only ever reached as far as the semi-finals twice, also doing so in 2006. Many England fans will remember the heartbreaking loss on penalties that year in the quarter-finals and the clash between Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney which led to the England forward’s dismissal.
Uruguay have some history at the World Cup and were crowned champions in the first-ever tournament in 1930, which they also hosted. They were also crowned champions in 1950 but have not even reached the final since. La Celeste have reached the semi-finals a total number of three times from 1950 but have not gone on to reach the final since that year.
South Korea managed to reach the semi-finals when they co-hosted the tournament in 2002, alongside Japan, but they have only managed to qualify out of the group stage once since (South Africa 2010). Picking up just one World Cup win across their last two campaigns, the Warriors will be hoping for a much-improved showing this time around in Qatar.
2016 European champions Portugal have performed better when they face competition solely from their own continent. World Cup performances have been weak, considering their array of talent, and they have not managed to get past the round of 16 since 2006. Despite managing to reach the last 16 in each of their last three World Cup campaigns, A Seleção have picked up no more than a single victory in each of those World Cup campaigns, with just one group stage win being enough to see them through to the knockouts.
You could certainly say that luck has been on their side in major tournaments for quite some time, but their fearless approach and desire means that they are always a threat, especially when you’ve got a man like Ronaldo in your squad.
Suarez Send Off
Luis Suarez will be playing at his fourth World Cup this winter and the 35-year-old will be looking to make his hallmark appearance in the headlines. The former Liverpool and Barcelona striker already has seven World Cup goals to his name and he will be hoping he can add to that tally in Qatar, even though this time it will be more than likely coming from the bench.
Ghana Getting Even
The 2010 World Cup in South Africa will bring back fond memories for Ghana but also disappointment and frustration. Of course, it was a great achievement 12 years ago when they were able to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in their history but they will feel slightly robbed out of making it one step further to reach the final four.
Ghana and Uruguay met in the quarter-finals in Johannesburg and the African nation were defeated on penalties after the scores were level at 1-1 after 120 minutes. However, in controversial fashion, Luis Suarez stopped a goal-bound Ghanaian effort from crossing the line with his hand, deep into extra time. That would have been the winner and despite Ghana being awarded a penalty, they were unable to convert.
The striker was sent off for his antics but was seen celebrating the missed penalty kick by Asamoah Gyan. Uruguay would then go on to defeat Ghana 4-2 in the shootout, crushing their dreams, and a whole continent, from being the first African side to reach the semi-finals of a World Cup. Being drawn into the same group as Uruguay this time around, Ghana will be on the hunt for vengeance.
With Portugal and Uruguay being the two heavyweights of Group H, their matchday two clash will be the key matchup on November 28 at the Lusail Iconic Stadium. The two nations are expected to qualify into the knockouts, ahead of Ghana and South Korea, so all eyes will be on this one to see who could potentially top the group.
Ones to Watch
Federico Valverde is starting to blossom for Real Madrid and the 24-year-old midfielder will be looking to display his talents to the rest of the world this winter. Carlo Ancelotti has somehow managed to turn Valverde into a bit of a goal machine, scoring six goals in La Liga so far this term. Valverde has been able to nurture his long-range goal-scoring ability, so look out for some worldies in Qatar.
Milan’s Rafael Leao has been heavily linked to plenty of clubs of late and could soon be heading to the Premier League. Suitors have caught the eye due to his speed and skill set that could light up the English top flight but he has also done well in terms of production too, scoring six goals and assisting four in Serie A through the first 14 games. All eyes will be on Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes for Portugal, however, so Leao may go slightly under the radar.
Group H Final Prediction
The drama surrounding Ronaldo has led to some interesting footage released, sparking thoughts of unrest in and around the Portuguese camp ahead of Qatar 2022. Certainly, interactions between Ronaldo, Joao Cancelo and Bruno Fernandes seem to be a little off and the lack of cohesion within the squad could be to huge detriment.
As a result, we’re backing Uruguay to top the group, with veteran forwards Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez having a strong tournament alongside their new marksman Darwin Nunez. South Korea may even be able to push Portugal for a spot into the last 16, especially if their star man Heung-Min Son is on form. However, we’re still going to back Ronaldo and co. to just about get it done and reach the knockouts.
3. South Korea