WORLD CUP GROUP H GUIDE - Ronaldo hoping for swansong, Uruguay and Ghana to meet in rematch

WORLD CUP GROUP H GUIDE - Ronaldo hoping for swansong, Uruguay and Ghana to meet in rematch

Updated: 1 month, 3 days, 12 hours, 42 minutes, 33 seconds ago

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The World Cup draw may have saved the best until last.

Group H is arguably the most fascinating of all eight sections for the tournament in Qatar, with Portugal, Uruguay, Ghana and South Korea battling it out for the two available places in the knockout rounds.

Portugal will be hoping Cristiano Ronaldo has a World Cup swansong to remember as they look to win the prestigious tournament for the first time.


Uruguay will also be relying on the old guard, with Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani likely to be their key protagonists in Qatar.

Suarez is set to take centre stage when Uruguay play Ghana in a repeat of the infamous quarter-final of 2010, when his handball on the line effectively cost the African nation an historic semi-final berth.

The tournament in Qatar is expected to be the last World Cup for Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo

Uruguay and Ghana will meet in a rematch of their infamous 2010 World Cup quarter-final

Ghana endured a miserable Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year as they were dumped out at the group stage following an embarrassing defeat to tournament minnows Comoros and will be aiming to bounce back on the grandest stage of all.

Son Heung-min will lead South Korea into the competition with the distant hope of emulating their nation's heroes from 20 years ago, when they reached the semi-finals against all the odds.

The first World Cup to be held in the winter kicks off on November 20, with Group H the last to get underway on November 24. 

Here, Sportsmail takes you through an intriguing Group H, including how each team qualified for the tournament, their history in the competition and who to look out for.

 

PORTUGAL 

Who's the manager? 

Fernando Santos - The man who masterminded Portugal's unlikely success at Euro 2016, when Eder's extra-time winner shocked hosts France to the core, is still at the helm but many consider his job to be hanging by a thread.

Some would say he's lucky to even still be in the role, which he has held since 2014, given Portugal were knocked out in the last 16 at the 2018 World Cup and again at the same stage at Euro 2020. They made it to Qatar through the play-offs and, with the squad at his disposal, Portugal really should be challenging for the trophy.

The 67-year-old, who has managed clubs in Portugal and Greece in his career to date, has huge pressure on his shoulders as he aims to deliver Ronaldo and Co their first World Cup. 

Fernando Santos is thought by many to be clinging on to his job as Portugal boss Fernando Santos is thought by many to be clinging on to his job as Portugal boss

Fernando Santos is thought by many to be clinging on to his job as Portugal boss

He has already been dealt a blow ahead of the World Cup with the news that Wolves winger Pedro Neto and Liverpool striker Diogo Jota have been ruled out of the tournament through injury, while there are also doubts over Pepe and Nuno Mendes.

Who's the star man?

Cristiano Ronaldo - His return to Manchester United may have not turned out how he or the fans would have hoped but even though results were average, Ronaldo proved last season that his instinct in front of goal was as sharp as ever.

A tally of 24 goals in 39 appearances in all competitions - some of which kept United alive in the Champions League when all hope looked lost - is not bad at all but maybe it's time Ronaldo finally put his faith in the superb players Portugal have around him.

Ronaldo will be aiming to banish his frustrations with his club when he plays for Portugal in Qatar Ronaldo will be aiming to banish his frustrations with his club when he plays for Portugal in Qatar

Ronaldo will be aiming to banish his frustrations with his club when he plays for Portugal in Qatar

He has endured a frustrating start to the campaign so far and will be hoping the World Cup, likely to be his last, offers a respite from his travails at United.

How did they qualify?

It was really a two-horse race in Group A of qualification, which went to the wire.

Portugal and Serbia were level on points ahead of their game in Lisbon, the last in the group, but Aleksandar Mitrovic's 90th-minute winner stole victory for Serbia.

Ronaldo's side dropped into the play-offs but they turned up when it mattered most, first beating Turkey 3-1 and then seeing off Italy's conquerors - North Macedonia - 2-0 to secure a spot in Qatar.

Portugal had to come through a play-off to secure their spot at the tournament in Qatar Portugal had to come through a play-off to secure their spot at the tournament in Qatar

Portugal had to come through a play-off to secure their spot at the tournament in Qatar

Fixtures

Portugal open their World Cup campaign against Ghana on November 24 before a mouth-watering clash with Uruguay four days later.

Santos' side conclude their group phase by taking on South Korea. Portugal will play at three different venues - Stadium 974 in Doha, the Lusail Iconic Stadium and the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan.

Tournament history

Portugal have often flattered to deceive at the World Cup. Despite their vast array of talent, they have only made it further than the last 16 once since 2002 - when they finished fourth in Germany in 2006.

Portugal finished fourth at the 2006 World Cup after losing to France in the semi-finals Portugal finished fourth at the 2006 World Cup after losing to France in the semi-finals

Portugal finished fourth at the 2006 World Cup after losing to France in the semi-finals

Their best result was third in 1966, but they did not even qualify for the tournament again until 20 years later.

After going out of the group stage in 1986, their next appearance at the World Cup came in 2002, and they have qualified for every edition since.

Odds of winning the trophy: 14/1

 

GHANA

Who's the manager?

Otto Addo - The former Ghanaian international - who played for Borussia Dortmund during an distinguished playing career - will lead his country into the World Cup after Serb Milovan Rajevac was dismissed following the nation's dismal showing at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Former Ghanaian international Otto Addo will lead his country at the upcoming World Cup Former Ghanaian international Otto Addo will lead his country at the upcoming World Cup

Former Ghanaian international Otto Addo will lead his country at the upcoming World Cup

The 47-year-old had initially been appointed on an interim basis before being given the position permanently after Ghana beat Nigeria in their World Cup play-off. 

Ex-Newcastle, Brighton and Birmingham manager Chris Hughton was in February appointed to be a technical advisor for the Black Stars having been linked with the manager's job.

Addo has recently hinted he may leave the role after the World Cup, though.

Who's the star man?

Thomas Partey - The Arsenal midfielder is his country's standout player, but endured a disappointing AFCON in January.

Thomas Partey (left) will be the standout name on Ghana's teamsheet at the World Cup Thomas Partey (left) will be the standout name on Ghana's teamsheet at the World Cup

Thomas Partey (left) will be the standout name on Ghana's teamsheet at the World Cup

Other key players include Leicester defender Daniel Amartey and Crystal Palace forward Jordan Ayew, while they have also been boosted by promising Brighton right-back Tariq Lamptey switching his allegiance from England in July.

How did they qualify?

Ghana snuck into the World Cup finals by the skin of their teeth. 

Having finished level on 13 points with South Africa in their group but progressing by virtue of scoring one more goal, they faced Nigeria in a two-legged play-off.

With the first game in Ghana a goalless stalemate, a 1-1 draw in Abuja - with Partey his country's goalscorer - was enough for the 2010 quarter-finalists to progress on away goals.

Ghana beat Nigeria in a World Cup play-off, with the second leg marred by crowd violence Ghana beat Nigeria in a World Cup play-off, with the second leg marred by crowd violence

Ghana beat Nigeria in a World Cup play-off, with the second leg marred by crowd violence

Andre Ayew will be among the Ghanaian players hoping to impress at the World Cup Andre Ayew will be among the Ghanaian players hoping to impress at the World Cup

Andre Ayew will be among the Ghanaian players hoping to impress at the World Cup

The second leg was notable for angry Nigerian fans storming the pitch. Police were forced to use tear gas to diffuse violent clashes as dugouts were ripped from the ground and various items were launched at players from both sides as they tried to race down the tunnel to take refuge in the dressing rooms.

Fixtures

Ghana have perhaps their toughest test first as they play Portugal in their opening game.

The Black Stars then face South Korea before ending against Uruguay, a World Cup grudge match if ever there was one. The African side will also take in three different venues in their group-stage campaign.

Tournament history

Ghana are due to return to the World Cup stage after failing to qualify for the 2018 tournament in Russia.

Their best result came in 2010, just their second time at the World Cup, when they reached the quarter-finals before losing to Uruguay in THAT infamous match, where they were a Suarez handball and an Asamoah Gyan penalty away from a place in the last four.

Ghana are sure to seek revenge when they play Uruguay in a repeat of the 2010 quarter-final Ghana are sure to seek revenge when they play Uruguay in a repeat of the 2010 quarter-final

Ghana are sure to seek revenge when they play Uruguay in a repeat of the 2010 quarter-final

Ghana's performance at the World Cup on the pitch pales in significance off it, with their boycott of 1966 event in England in protest at the lack of direct spots FIFA gave to African and Asian countries widely regarded as a crucial moment in the competition's history.

Odds of winning the trophy: 250/1  

 

URUGUAY

Who's the manager? 

Diego Alonso - David Beckham's former Inter Miami manager was unveiled as the new Uruguay coach back in December, replacing the legendary Oscar Tabarez after he was sacked following 15 years in the job.

Tabarez was shown the door after an abysmal run that left the two-time World Cup winners down in seventh place in South American qualifying and in danger of missing out on the tournament altogether.

Uruguay coach Diego Alonso oversaw four straight victories in qualification to book their spot Uruguay coach Diego Alonso oversaw four straight victories in qualification to book their spot

Uruguay coach Diego Alonso oversaw four straight victories in qualification to book their spot

But Alonso oversaw a late resurgence and four straight wins, including over Paraguay and Chile, saw them finish third in the group and book their place in Qatar.

Who's the star man?

Luis Suarez - Opportunities had been few and far between for the former Liverpool and Barcelona star at Atletico Madrid before he returned home to Nacional but he's as crucial now for Uruguay than he ever has been.

Suarez has scored in three of the four wins under Alonso and is still the driving force of the team alongside Edinson Cavani and the exciting Darwin Nunez. Suarez has lost a bit of that magic but he's still clinical and decisive in big moments.

Luis Suarez is set to lead the line for Uruguay, where he plays his club football, at the age of 35 Luis Suarez is set to lead the line for Uruguay, where he plays his club football, at the age of 35

Luis Suarez is set to lead the line for Uruguay, where he plays his club football, at the age of 35

The now 35-year-old will travel to Qatar having helped Nacional win the Primera Divison title 16 years after he first won the competition at the start of his career.

Watch out for the likes of Cavani, another player in the twilight of his time at the top level, Liverpool's £85m man Nunez and combative Atletico defender José Giménez, too.

How did they qualify?

Getting to Qatar was a bit of a slog for Uruguay but they finally punched their ticket thanks to victory over Chile in their final game of the gruelling CONMEBOL section. 

Four straight defeats - against Brazil, Bolivia and two by Argentina - had left them on the brink of failing to qualify, which would have been a disaster for the two-time winners.

But officials made the bold choice of replacing their manager and it's proven to be a masterstroke. Victories under Alonso against Paraguay, Venezuela and Peru did the trick and then they beat Chile to complete a superb turnaround in form and spare the country's blushes.

Uruguay suffered two defeats in qualification to Argentina before they rallied late on Uruguay suffered two defeats in qualification to Argentina before they rallied late on

Uruguay suffered two defeats in qualification to Argentina before they rallied late on

Only Brazil and Argentina amassed more points in qualification - although the Brazilians ended the standings 17 clear of the Uruguayans.

Fixtures

Uruguay begin their pursuit of a third World Cup crown with an encounter against South Korea.

The potentially crucial crunch clash with Portugal follows before they round out the first stage of the competition against Ghana in a repeat of the controversial quarter-final in South Africa 12 years ago.

Tournament history

Uruguay have a storied past in the World Cup and remain one of the most successful in its history, winning the inaugural tournament in 1930 before lifting the trophy again in 1950.

The South American side finished fourth in 1954, 1970 and 2010, while they also made the quarter-finals in Russia, where they were beaten by eventual winners France, as well as the semi-finals in 2010 following the controversy-laden win over Ghana.

Odds of winning the trophy: 40/1

 

SOUTH KOREA 

Who's the manager?

Paulo Bento - The former Portugal boss was charged with leading the national team to Qatar when he replaced Shin Tae-yong, who was not offered a new contract after the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and Bento has now been in the role for more than four years.

Paulo Bento (right) breezed through qualification and will lead South Korea in Qatar Paulo Bento (right) breezed through qualification and will lead South Korea in Qatar

Paulo Bento (right) breezed through qualification and will lead South Korea in Qatar

Bento, who started out in coaching with Sporting Lisbon, led Portugal to the semi-finals of Euro 2012 but was sacked after a disappointing 2014 World Cup and a poor start to qualification for Euro 2016.

The 53-year-old made nearly 430 appearances during his playing career, which included spells with Benfica and Sporting Lisbon. 

Who's the star man?

Son Heung-min - The Tottenham star really is the difference between South Korea having any chance of emerging from the group stage or crashing out early on. His performances alongside England's Harry Kane have been impressive again this season but now he needs to take that onto the biggest stage.

Few players will go to Qatar with a similar level of weight on their shoulders as Son, who is unquestionably their best player and biggest threat to the likes of Portugal and Uruguay.

Spurs star Son Heung-min is South Korea's key player and talisman for the tournament Spurs star Son Heung-min is South Korea's key player and talisman for the tournament

Spurs star Son Heung-min is South Korea's key player and talisman for the tournament

Son produced a marvellous display when South Korea stunned the Germans and knocked them out of the group stage in Russia. He has 30 goals in 98 caps for his national team, a tally which seems on the low side for a player of his quality.

Now is the time to stand up and deliver for his country, who would snap your hand off for a place in the last 16.

How did they qualify?

South Korea cruised through the second round of Asian qualifying - only the lower-ranked nations enter at the first stage - as they won five of their six initial group games, which included an 8-0 thrashing of Sri Lanka.

The only match in which they dropped points was a surprise 0-0 draw away in Lebanon in 2019.

Son will have the weight of his nation on his shoulders during the World Cup, which begins next month

That saw them progress to the third round but they were nudged into second spot by Iran, who topped the group with 25 points, two clear of South Korea.

South Korea were comfortably clear of third-placed UAE though, finishing a huge 11 points ahead of their nearest rivals to seal a spot at Qatar.

Fixtures

South Korea play Uruguay first up and then face Ghana, a match which gives them their best chance of a victory in the group stage.

If they need points from their last game, Portugal represent far from ideal opponents.

All of South Korea's group games will be held at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan.

Tournament history

Who could forget the South Korean side of 2002, which enjoyed a controversial run to the last four of the tournament as co-hosts?

This inception of the South Korean team stands little chance of repeating that feat but they will hope to sneak into the round of 16 behind likely group winners Portugal.

They have gone out at the group stage at the last two World Cups and have only progressed to the knockout round once since their heroics of two decades ago. 

Odds of wining the trophy: 250/1