2022 World Cup Previews: Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo Makes His Last Stand in Group H
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is upon us, albeit five months later than it usually comes. Despite the delay, we are now oh so close to the month of the greatest soccer in the world as the 32 biggest countries in the sport go at it for the coveted Jules Rimet trophy. Competing for the hardware in Group H, you have Portugal, Uruguay, South Korea, and Ghana.
Group H kicks off on November 24 and features six matches that will include international superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, a former World Cup-winning nation, a squad with an injured captain, and the lowest-ranked team in the tournament.
With that as the backdrop, let’s take a look at what you need to know about Group H.
World Cup Group H Logistics: Who’s in the group, and when are the matches?
Before the 2022 World Cup knockout stage kicks off on December 3, Group H will play a round-robin tournament where each team plays the other once. Here are the dates that Portugal, Uruguay, Ghana, and South Korea go at it:
- Uruguay vs. South Korea November 24
- Portugal vs. Ghana, November 24
- South Korea vs. Ghana, November 28
- Portugal vs. Uruguay, November 28
- South Korea vs. Portugal, December 2
- Ghana vs. Uruguay, December 2
The teams get three points for a win, one point for a draw, and zero points for a loss. The top two teams with the most points at the end of the three matches will advance to the knockout rounds.
Now that we have the schedule of matches, let’s look at the squads that make up Group H.
The 2022 World Cup is the last international stand for Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo
Can you be the GOAT if you’ve never won the World Cup? Fans who believe Pele, Diego Maradona, or (Brazilian) Ronaldo are the best that ever played will probably tell you no.
This year, the modern-day great ones — Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi — have one more chance to win the Jules Rimet trophy in Qatar, or they will likely go down in history as the greatest players not to lead their countries to a World Cup win.
For 37-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo, if he does make waves in this World Cup, it will be on the backs of the generation below him.
In 2022, there are still several Portuguese players who starred with Ronaldo on the 2016 Euro-winning Portugal side, including goalkeeper Rui Patricio (Roma, 34) and defender Pepe (Porto, 39). However, the spine of the squad is made up of the young stars who either watched the 2016 victories mostly from the bench or even from home.
This next wave of Portuguese stars in their prime includes Bernardo Silva (Manchester City, 28), Ruben Dias (Manchester City, 25), Joao Cancelo (Manchester City, 28), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United, 28), and Ruben Neves (Wolves).
These stars, combined with some exciting youngsters like Diogo Dalot (Manchester United, 23), Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid, 23), and Rafael Leao (AC Milan, 23), can help pull Cristiano Ronaldo over the finish line one more time if they can play slightly above their heads, just like the 2016 side did.
Can the young Uruguayans give their aging star teammates one more day in the sun?
Like Portugal, the 2022 Uruguay World Cup squad is a mix of old and young trying to come together to make magic. However, in the South Americans’ case, the old group is even older, and the youngsters are even younger and less proven.
On the upper side of the equation, you have well-known 30-something stars like goalkeeper Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray, 36), defenders Diego Godín (Vélez Sarsfield, 36) and Martín Cáceres (LA Galaxy, 35), and forwards Luis Suárez (Nacional, 35) and Edinson Cavani (Valencia, 35).
On the lower end of that spectrum, there is Ronald Araújo (Barcelona, 23) on defense, Rodrigo Bentancur (Tottenham, 25) and Federico Valverde (Real Madrid, 24) in the midfield, and Darwin Núñez (Liverpool, 23), Facundo Torres (Orlando City, 22), and Facundo Pellistri (Manchester United, 20) upfront.
It’s an incredibly talented squad, but the talent is all either aging out or aging in. There aren’t any stars in their 27-31-year-old prime.
This is an interesting team, and with the combination of the young players coming into their own who can help pull the last bits of high-level football out of the decorated but somewhat underachieving Muslera, Godín, Cáceres, Suárez, and Cavani.
Don’t be surprised if one of the eight countries ever to win a World Cup shocks some teams in the 2022 affair.
The Son Heung-Min injury spells trouble for South Korea
Korea Republic (aka South Korea) has a few names that hardcore European football fans may recognize. There’s Kim Min-jae from Napoli in Italy, Lee Jae-sung from Mainz 05 in Germany, and Hwang Ui-jo from Olympiacos in Greece.
However, the team truly revolves around Tottenham Hotspur star Son Heung-min.
The problem is Son suffered a fractured eye socket in a Spurs Champions League match vs. Marseilles. The crafty forward knocked heads with a defender from the French side. The injury brought Son’s World Cup participation into question. When the final 26-man roster came out, though, South Korea’s superstar was there.
South Korea is the 28th-ranked team in the world, so beating No. 9 Portugal or No. 14 Uruguay was a long shot, to begin with. If Son is not his normal, aggressive self after his recent face surgery, the Republic’s chances of getting out of the group go from slim to none.
Ghana will try to outperform being the lowest-ranked team in the 2022 World Cup
The West African nation of Ghana has the inauspicious distinction of being the lowest-ranked team (61) in the 32-team 2022 World Cup field.
That said, there is a decent amount of talent on the Ghanaian sideline, but the team needs to find its groove tactically after new manager Otto Addo took over in February. Ghana snuck into the World Cup, winning only four of eight games, and managed just eight goals in those matches.
When Ghana takes the field in Group H, you’ll likely see some players you may know. The roster won’t be out until November 14 but expect to see the likes of Daniel Amartey (Leicester City), Mohammed Salisu (Southampton), Thomas Partey (Arsenal), Jonathan Mensah (Columbus Crew), and Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace).
The other thing the Black Stars have going for them is that, nearly two weeks away from their first match in Qatar, their fans have shown up in force in the Middle Eastern country.
2022 World Cup Group H prediction: Portugal and Uruguay Advance
Maybe South Korea could have pushed one of the top-seeded teams in Group H if Son Heung-Min was healthy, but without their star, Korea Republic will be relegated to third place in the table.
The main surprise here isn’t who gets out but how they get out. Watch for Uruguay to coalesce as the tournament goes on, upset Portugal in their head-to-head matchup, and come out of the group in first place.
With that in mind, the final group H standings will be:
- South Korea
There are the Group H predictions. Now let’s see what happens when the teams face off in Qatar.