Portugal and Uruguay may be the favorites to advance, but South Korea are capable of pulling off an upset, as they did by beating defending champions Germany four years ago. Ghana is always a tough game, and there is no shortage of stars in Group H here, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and Son Heung-min all in action.
Coach: Fernando Santos
Higher finish: Third (1966)
End 2018: Round of 16
FOX betting odds: +1400
Key players: Joao Cancelo, Cristiano Ronaldo, Bernardo Silva
What we are excited to see: As always, the focus will be on Ronaldo, who could become the first male player to score in five World Cups. But this is a fascinating team beyond No. 7; with a squad equipped with starters at some of the game’s biggest clubs, Portugal’s supporting cast is second to none.
What success looks like: Win a playoff game. Although they finished fourth in 2006, Portugal have not managed to get past the round of 16 in the last three World Cups.
Whole Achilles: Ronaldo. The Portuguese attack has been built around him for nearly two decades, and the 37-year-old remains lethal in front of goal. But his teammates often throw too much at him, and his lack of defensive pressure makes him a liability when his team doesn’t have the ball.
X Factor: Ronaldo. (It’s always Ronaldo.) For all his recent off-field drama with Manchester United, the living legend is built for the biggest moments. He is back in the nurturing cocoon of the national team and has something to prove. Does he have one more star in him on the biggest stage?
Portugal’s living legend
Cristiano Ronaldo is known for his finishing, technical ability and aerial ability.
Coach: Otto Addo
Higher finish: Quarter Finals (2010)
End 2018: It didn’t qualify
FOX betting odds: +35,000
Key players: André Ayew, Jordan Ayew, Thomas Partey
What we are excited to see: Group final against Uruguay. The Black Stars will be looking for revenge when they meet La Celeste on December 2. In 2010, Ghana were minutes away from becoming the first African team to reach the semi-finals when Luis Suarez deliberately blocked a goal kick with his arm. But Asamoah Gyan missed the subsequent penalty and Ghana lost on penalties.
What success looks like: After completely losing last time, just getting out of the group would be good enough.
Whole Achilles: current form Ghana have not won against another Qatar-bound foe in four attempts this year.
X Factor: inexperience While the Ayew brothers have 189 international caps between them, 18 other players in Ghana’s 26-man squad have 11 caps or less.
Coach: Diego Alonso
Higher finish: Winners (1930, 1950)
End 2018: Quarter finals
FOX betting odds: +4000
Key players: Edinson Cavani, Darwin Nunez, Federico Valverde
What we are excited to see: This is the last dance for Cavani and his partner Luis Suarez, 35. Do they have enough left for a deeper run?
What success looks like: A proud soccer nation, Uruguayans won’t be happy if their team doesn’t go home with the trophy. This is unlikely but not impossible.
Whole Achilles: speed La Celeste’s tough but slow entry is particularly vulnerable on the counter-attack.
X Factor: Darwin Nunez. There’s a reason Liverpool paid $100 million for the forward, whose finishing ability could only take Uruguay so far.
Coach: Paulo Bento
Higher finish: Fourth (2002)
End 2018: Group stage
FOX betting odds: +25,000
Key players: Hwang Ui-jo, Kim Min-jae, Son Heung-min
What we are excited to see: Jeong Woo-yeong. The electric 24-year-old is South Korea’s most exciting player this side of Son. If Son can’t play (more on that below), Jeong will have to step up.
What success looks like: survival South Korea have managed to get out of the first round just once in their last four World Cup appearances.
Whole Achilles: Back right The Koreans could be vulnerable to attacks down the left flank as manager Diego Alonso still has no clear starter heading into the tournament.
X Factor: son He is a true world star when healthy; Last season, Son led the Premier League in goals. But he is also coming off facial surgery after breaking his orbital bone in a Champions League game earlier this month, casting doubt on his availability in Qatar.
South Korea’s smiling superstar
Son Heung-Min is known for his speed, finishing and passing.
More World Cup Group Bios:
- Group A: Ecuador, Netherlands, Qatar, Senegal
- Group B: England, Iran, United States, Wales
- Group C: Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland
- Group D: France, Australia, Denmark, Tunisia
- Group E: Spain, Costa Rica, Germany, Japan
- Group F: Belgium, Canada, Morocco, Croatia
- Group G: Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon
Doug McIntyre is a football writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a writer for ESPN and Yahoo Sports and has covered the US men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @By Doug McIntyre.
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