Seeking to divert attention away from the never-ending Cristiano Ronaldo saga, Portugal begin another quest for international stardom when they meet Ghana in their World Cup 2022 Group H opener at Doha’s Stadium 974 on Thursday.
Fernando Santos’s side will also face Uruguay and South Korea in a challenging section, as their African counterparts face an uphill battle to make it through to the knockout stages.
The headlines both inside and outside of Portugal in recent days have been dominated by one man, as Manchester United veteran Ronaldo pulled no punches in a scathing attack on the club during an interview with Piers Morgan, which could see him leave Old Trafford at best or be sacked and sued at the worst.
Ronaldo made a surprise appearance at a press conference earlier this week to demand that focus be on the football rather than his actions, as the five-time Ballon d’Or winner desperately seeks to help Portugal finally achieve the big one after several World Cup disappointments.
Despite their status as an iconic footballing nation, Portugal have only ever progressed to the semi-finals of the World Cup on two occasions in 1966 and 2006, and they have failed to go beyond the last 16 in four of their last five tournaments.
A Selecao bowed out in the last 16 to fellow Group H rivals Uruguay in Russia four years ago and have only posted a paltry three wins from their last 11 matches at the World Cup finals, although they warmed up for the competition in an ideal manner by thumping Nigeria 4-0 in last Thursday’s friendly.
Fast starts have not been a theme of Portugal’s at the World Cup, though, as Santos’s men have failed to win any of their last three opening matches on the biggest international stage, but Ghana must lace up their best shooting boots if they are to breach a defence that has only conceded two goals in their last seven games.