When Ghana travels to the Education City Stadium to play South Korea today, they risk being eliminated early from Group H of the 2022 World Cup.
On the first day, the Asian rivals impressively held Uruguay to a scoreless tie while the Black Stars suffered a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Portugal.
On the opening day of the 2022 World Cup, there were a total of four 0-0 ties. South Korea put out a valiant effort in their 0-0 draw with Uruguay, however the woodwork did save them on a few occasions.
Paulo Bento’s team held on for a point against their South American opponents, displaying their defensive resiliency that was also present in their most recent games prior to Qatar. Federico Valverde and Diego Godin both saw shots crash off the goal frame.
The Tigers of Asia enter their match against Ghana having only lost one of their previous 10 games across all competitions, and the Kim Min-jae-managed defense has kept three consecutive clean sheets during a four-game unbeaten run.
Despite their strength in the defensive third, South Korea failed to register a shot on goal during the Uruguay draw for the second time in four World Cup games, and Ghana undoubtedly had some experience holding teams at bay during the run-up to Qatar.
Another World Cup group game, another goal for Cristiano Ronaldo, but the five-time Ballon d’Or winner could only watch on from the bench in horror as A Selecao very nearly threw away a two-goal lead against Ghana on Thursday evening.
Following Ronaldo’s penalty, Joao Felix and Rafael Leao struck either side of Andre Ayew’s response before Osman Bukari reduced the deficit further, and the howler of the tournament award very nearly went to Portugal goalkeeper Diogo Costa, who rolled the ball out without knowing that Inaki Williams was behind him.
The Athletic Bilbao forward immediately tried to pounce on that gilt-edged chance right at the death, but he slipped at the vital moment as Ghana succumbed to a 3-2 loss, which leaves them bottom of the Group H standings and at real risk of an exit before the final matchday.
No matter what transpires in Uruguay’s showdown with Portugal, Ghana will be out if they suffer defeat to South Korea at the Education City Stadium, but a six-game scoring streak at the World Cup does stand the Black Stars in good stead.
Monday’s game will mark the 10th meeting between South Korea and Ghana in all competitions, with the last six yielding three wins apiece for both nations, but Ghana ran out convincing 4-0 winners during the most recent battle in a 2014 friendly.
South Korea fans rejoiced in the return to fitness of Son Heung-min, who donned a protective mask against Uruguay after his recent eye socket fracture and came through the game unscathed.
However, fellow Premier League attacker Hwang Hee-chan – who was an unused substitute on Thursday – is dealing with hamstring discomfort and will not be able to feature here.
Bento has also been handed a concern over key centre-back Kim Min-jae, who has been dealing with calf discomfort and is classed as a doubt for the contest.
As for Ghana, Otto Addo lined up in a defence-heavy formation for the showdown with Portugal, which very nearly paid dividends, but the need for victory could see the Black Stars shift to a four-man defence here.
Addo should be working with all 26 players for Monday’s meeting, where any change in system would likely put Mohammed Salisu’s place at risk as Bukari and Kamaldeen Sulemana push to return in a more attacking setup.
Andre Ayew won the battle of the brothers with Jordan Ayew to start in the loss to Portugal, and the Al-Sadd man’s goal last time out should be enough to see him retain his place alongside Williams.
Andre Ayew did train separately from the team alongside right-back Alidu Seidu on Friday, but there is nothing to suggest that the duo will not be ready for Monday.
South Korea possible starting lineup:
Seung-gyu; Moon-hwan, Min-jae, Young-gwon, Jin-su; Jung, In-beom; Na, Lee, Son; Ui-jo
Ghana possible starting lineup:
Ati Zigi; Lamptey, Amartey, Djiku, Baba; Partey, Abdul Samed; Sulemana, Kudus, A. Ayew; Williams
Ghana’s previous defensive resilience was broken with ease by Portugal, but they demonstrated plenty of attacking nous at the other end and should have no problem troubling this South Korea backline.
Bento’s side proved their worth against Uruguay, though, and we can only envisage a closely-fought battle ending with the spoils shared as the race for a top-two spot goes right down to the wire.