Portugal vs. Ghana: 2014 FIFA World Cup | Group G Preview
This match is why there's picture-in-picture, why browsers can open multiple windows, why any decent sports bar has plenty of screens. Portugal and Ghana both have the potential to play spoiler in their Group G finale on Thursday – although the Black Stars' odds are far better – if the United States and Germany do anything but draw in the other finale. A tie in either game would cut through a fog of possible scenarios, eliminating both Ghana and Portugal no matter what happens in the other game.
SPLIT AND SURVIVE: Portugal and Ghana both could have been bounced after two matches but earned draws – or in the Black Stars' case, conceded one – to keep their hopes alive going into the third. Ghana were gunning for all three against Germany, roaring back from a 1-0 deficit to go up 2-1 in the second half, but Miroslav Klose equalized for Die Mannschaft to keep them atop the group. You might remember the other second-round match as well: the United States falling behind in the fifth minute, fighting back to take a 2-1 lead into the closing seconds – and then Eder stole the ball from Michael Bradley, Cristiano Ronaldo unleashed a laser of a cross from the right wing, and Silvestre Varela beat Geoff Cameron and headed the ball home.
RETURN OF THE RED-CARD MAGNET: Pepe will be back in defense after serving a one-match suspension stemming from his headbutt of Thomas Muller in Portugal's opening 4-0 loss to Germany. The question is whether the chronic hothead can keep his cool this time out. US fans have to hope that he does, because a man advantage for Ghana against Portugal's already-iffy back line could spell big scoring numbers for the Black Stars.
GYAN'S LAST GASP?: Ghanaian forward Asamoah Gyan would love a shot at redemption in the knockout stage after the way his 2010 Cup run ended in South Africa. Ghana were one penalty conversion away from the semifinals after Uruguay's Luis (insert bite joke here) Suarez's deliberate handball on the goal line, but Gyan crashed his penalty off the crossbar and the Black Stars came up short in the ensuing shootout (despite Gyan converting his second chance). He'll be 32 when Russia 2018 rolls around, so Brazil 2014 could be his last chance on soccer's biggest stage.
PAY TO PLAY: Ghana airlifted more than $3 million in cash to Brazil ahead of the match to quell any possible player boycott. Deputy sports minister Joseph Yammin told Accra-based Citi FM that the government had to raise the money after players insisted they be paid their World Cup appearance fees in cash.
Crazy Ghana press conference. Players demanding appearance money in cash. Asked where they'll keep it, Christian Atsu said: "In our bags."
— Stuart James (@StuartJamesGNM) June 25, 2014
THE STAR YOU KNOW
- Andre Ayew, forward, Ghana -- The athletic winger, one of two sons of Ghanaian legend Abedi Pele on this World Cup squad, has two goals through two matches for the Black Stars. His snap header against Germany was a thing of both elegance and raw power, and he has fantastic ups for a player who's only 5-foot-9.
THE PLAYER WHO WILL SURPRISE YOU
- CR7 -- Go ahead; clean the coffee off your keyboard. We'll wait. How can the reigning FIFA Ballon d'Or holder, the world's highest-paid footballer, be a surprise? By scoring, something he hasn't done in Portugal's first two matches this time around. The crucial assist aside, Ronaldo hasn't done much to put a stamp on this tournament. His pride and skill, even on a wonky knee, won't let that stand against the Black Stars. He might be headed home after this match, but he ain't goin' out like that.