How will Group H play out in the 2022 World Cup?
Part 8 of a series
With the 2022 World Cup set to begin on Nov. 20, there are teams from each of the eight groups poised to leave their mark on the tournament.
This group leaves plenty of debate to be discussed once the first match between Uruguay and South Korea kicks off on Nov. 24.
First Place: Portugal
Portugal is the favorite to win this group, albeit a vulnerable one.
The Portuguese have underperformed in past World Cups, either losing in the Round of 16 or crashing out of the group stage. It is a far cry from their third-place finish in 2006.
They had some difficulty trying to punch their ticket to the tournament. They finished second in their qualifying group behind Serbia, meaning they had to play two playoff matches to qualify. They succeeded, dismantling Turkey 3-1 and getting past North Macedonia 2-0 in the process.
Portugal possesses some of the world’s best midfielders in Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva. Playing their roles as attacking midfielders for Manchester United and Manchester City, they will be key to creating goalscoring chances for the offense.
Then there is Cristiano Ronaldo headlining as the team’s best striker. He has been stirring controversy with the criticism of his current club Manchester United (which fellow teammates Fernandes and Diogo Dalot also play for), but the gravity and attention he gets from opposing defenses even at the advanced age of 37 will help the Portuguese offense plenty.
To see Ronaldo in the knockout stage one last time will be a great conclusion to his World Cup journey with Portugal.
Second Place: Uruguay
With a mix of solid veterans and young players, Uruguay is on track to advance from this group.
The Uruguayans had a great run in 2018, topping their group and beating Portugal in the Round of 16 before losing 2-0 to eventual winners France in the quarterfinals.
Despite an up-and-down performance in qualifying, Uruguay got it together in their last set of matches to clinch one of the last spots to represent South America.
They did this by inserting more youth into the rotation, especially with Federico Valverde and Darwin Nunez. They scored three goals in qualifying as they are progressing with their skill at Real Madrid and Liverpool, and will be vital to the team’s transition for the next qualifying cycle.
Then there are their veterans. Fernando Muslera remains persistent as their best goalkeeper, Diego Godin continues to lead the defense as team captain, while Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani remain potent with their scoring ability.
Giving Muslera, Godin, Cavani, and Suarez one more appearance in the knockout rounds would be a great sendoff to four players who made so much history for Uruguay.
Third Place: South Korea
South Korea is a solid dark horse for opponents to watch out for.
Despite finishing third in their group in 2018, they got on peoples’ radar after eliminating 2014 champions Germany in the group stage.
They have continued to maintain their consistency during the Asian qualifiers, getting a top-two spot alongside Saudi Arabia to book their places in Qatar.
The player who will look to lead this team to success is Son Heung-min. He scored seven goals throughout the qualifying cycle, as his elite ability to play on the wing with his goalscoring tendencies makes him a must-watch player.
Even if South Korea doesn’t advance to the knockout stage, they will make every match difficult for their opponents.
Fourth Place: Ghana
Ghana is an underdog in this group, but they can make some surprises.
Missing out on 2018’s tournament and suffering an embarrassing exit in the 2021 African Cup of Nations following a 3-2 loss to Comoros in the group stage, they retooled their roster in time to not fail in the African qualifiers.
The Ghanaians were successful in their qualifiers, cruising past their group as they went on to stun Nigeria on away goals in the final round to secure qualification into the World Cup.
Ghana is going into the tournament with mostly a young squad. While this inexperience might leave them exposed to disciplined and veteran offenses, this does allow them to be unpredictable, as proven by their recent 2-0 win over Switzerland.
And they still have the Ayew brothers playing key roles in the offense. Andre Ayew, in particular, scored three goals in qualifying as he will be the first option in creating shots for the team.
Ghana will need to beat South Korea and get a draw against either Uruguay or Portugal, but they have a chance to pull it off.