Ghana is facing the prospect of an early elimination from World Cup 2022 Group H when they travel to the Education City Stadium to face South Korea on Monday.
The Black Stars fell to an agonizing 3-2 defeat to Portugal on an opening day, while their Asian counterparts impressively held Uruguay to a goalless draw.
A total of four goalless draws were played out on matchday one of the 2022 World Cup, and while South Korea put in a good shift in their scoreless stalemate with Uruguay, the woodwork did have come to their aid on a couple of occasions.
Federico Valverde and Diego Godin both saw efforts crash off the frame of the goal as Paulo Bento’s side held on for a point against their South American foes, demonstrating their defensive solidity that was also present in their most recent games before Qatar.
South Korea and Uruguay cannot be separated by points, goals, or fair play points after matchday one, as the former seeks to give their hopes of a top-two finish a major boost with victory over Ghana and edge closer to a knockout berth for the first time since 2010.
By avoiding defeat in their opening battle, the Tigers of Asia come into their clash with Ghana having only lost one of their last 10 in all competitions, and the Kim Min-Jae-marshaled defense has kept three clean sheets in succession during a four-game unbeaten run.
Despite their prowess in the defensive third, South Korea failed to post a shot on target for the second time in four World Cup games during the Uruguay stalemate, and Ghana certainly knew a thing or two about keeping teams at bay during the build-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 a 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 the 2014 friendly.
However, fellow Premier League attacker Hwang Hee-chan – who was an unused substitute on Thursday – is dealing with hamstring discomfort and is classed as a major doubt for the matchday two clash.
Bento has no other concerns to report at this moment in time and should not be averse to naming an identical starting XI at the Education City Stadium, with Hwang Ui-jo spearheading the charge.
As for Ghana, Otto Addo lined up in a defense-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 defense here.
Addo should be working with all 26 players for Monday’s meeting, where any change in the system would likely put Mohammed Salisu’s place at risk as Bukari pushes 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’s possible starting lineup:
Seung-gyu; Moon-hwan, Min-jae, Young-gwon, Jin-su; Jung, In-beom; Na, Lee, Son; Ui-jo
Ghana’s possible starting lineup:
Ati Zigi; Seidu, Amartey, Djiku, Baba; Partey, Abdul Samed; Bukari, Kudus, A. Ayew; Williams
South Korea vs Ghana Prediction
South Korea failed to score in their opening game of 2018 as well but scored in the next two games, so they will not be bogged down by their goalless draw against Uruguay.
They will need to secure a win in this match, as a draw or defeat here will put them in a do-or-die situation against Portugal in their final group-stage game on Friday.
The Black Stars have scored in their last six games at the FIFA World Cup and will not go down without a fight. It should be noted that they are winless in five of these games. Ayew has scored in three of Ghana’s last four games and will be a key player for them.
Asian teams have done well in the competition recently, but Korea has failed to score in three of their last five games at the World Cup and might fall short of securing a win against a well-balanced Ghana. We expect the Black Stars to emerge victorious.
Prediction: South Korea 1-2 Ghana