With kickoff to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar nearly here this will be the final installment of the group-by-group preview series featuring odds from bet365.
In anticipation of that opening match and each to follow, Canada Sports Betting will continue to spotlight each match day’s fixtures with daily previews.
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Group H Team Previews
Lifting the 2016 UEFA European Championship was the pinnacle of the nation’s achievement in soccer. Long a hotbed of talent, current coach Fernando Santos and his side finally collected some silverware for Portugal, defeating France on its home turf in that final.
Two years later, Portugal failed to advance past Uruguay in the Round of 16 of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but the nation would find further European success in the 2019 UEFA Nations League Final defeating the Netherlands.
Portugal failed to defend its title at the 2020 Euros by finishing behind France and Germany before being knocked out by Belgium in the Round of 16. The team also had some early struggles in qualification for Qatar.
One of the dilemmas a national side must face is when to move on from older players who have served well. Portugal has a couple such cases, but none is bigger than Cristiano Ronaldo. Succumbing to injury early in that 2016 final, Ronaldo’s urging from the sidelines garnered as much attention as Eder’s extra-time winner.
Santos has no shortage of talent at his disposal: Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes are two of the premier midfielders in the game, Ruben Dias and Joao Cancelo top defenders, and the long-touted Joao Felix to name a few.
A second-place group finish behind Serbia in qualification saw Portugal needing to defeat Turkey and North Macedonia to secure its spot in Qatar, but some more lively showings in the UEFA Nations League this year has Portugal trending upwards.
Player to Watch: Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo, who will turn 38 early next year, remains the centre of attention.
Portugal’s all-time leader in appearances (191) and goals (117) will be playing in his 12th major tournament and has no plans to call it a career quite yet.
A glittering club career has seen him win every imaginable honour, though his storybook return to Manchester United seems set for an ignominious end.
Not unlike Portugal, Qatar 2022 will likely be the final tournament for a handful of legends.
Luis Suarez, 35, Diego Godin, 36, Edinson Cavani, 35, and Fernando Muslera, 36, could all be in line to call time on their La Celeste careers.
Twice winners of the early World Cups (1930 and 1950), Uruguay has seen a resurgence in the last decade, turning heads at South Africa 2010 with a fourth-placed finish after knocking out South Korea and Ghana en route to a semifinal defeat to the Netherlands. The squad also reached the Round of 16 in Brazil in 2014 and the quarterfinals in Russia in 2018. These are all very impressive feats for a country that has a population of just 3.5 million.
A middling showing at the 2021 Copa America, exiting in the quarterfinals in a shootout against Colombia, and a rough patch at the end of 2021 in CONMEBOL qualification, where it lost heavily away to Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia in quick succession, saw the nation bid farewell to long-time coach Oscar Washington Tabarez, the mastermind of recent success. Replaced by Diego Alonso in December, Uruguay would win its final four matches to secure a World Cup berth.
The task for Alonso is to figure out how best to combine the talent at his disposal. The best expression of this conundrum is in attack, where both Suarez and Cavani do not cover ground the way they used to, but giving Darwin Nunez, who made a big money move to Liverpool in the offseason, a spot means leaving one or both of the veterans out.
Player to Watch: Federico Valverde
The 24-year-old Real Madrid star has become a mainstay for both club and country, excelling in the middle of the park as the quintessential modern midfielder.
A product of the Penarol system, Valverde made just a handful of domestic appearances before being whisked off to Europe.
The Taeguek Warriors will make their 10th straight World Cup appearance in Qatar.
Consistency is a testament to the nation and its dedication to the game, but it is also a cause of some concern. Drawn into Group A in Asian qualifiers with the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, South Korea’s only top level competition was Iran. Even then, Paulo Bento’s side scored just 13 goals in 10 matches.
With qualification secured in March, South Korea has had time to prepare with a series of friendles. The first, however, was a wake-up call when South Korea was dismantled 5-1 at home by Brazil in June.
Wins over Chile and Egypt would follow quickly, as well as a draw with Paraguay. More recently a 2-2 draw with Costa Rica and 1-0 wins over Cameroon and Iceland have the side braced for what awaits.
Once feared as a swashbuckling side, especially on home turf during the 2002 World Cup, Bento has been trying to instill a more patient, durable style, but a lack of game-breakers has been an obstacle.
Player to Watch: Son Heung-Min
The 30-year-old Tottenham Hotspur attacker is both the captain and the only true star going to Qatar.
Quick and with an eye for goal, his participation is in doubt having fractured an eye socket in a clash of heads earlier this month. The whole nation will be waiting with bated breath to see if he’ll be fit for their opening match against Uruguay on Nov. 24.
The Black Stars come to Qatar without the star power that once made them one of the more feared sides out of Africa.
An epic run to the quarterfinals of the 2010 tournament in South Africa was meant to be the start of something big, but instead, having failed to emerge from their group in Brazil in 2014, and not qualifying for Russia 2018, that dawn looks to have been halted.
Ghana began its journey to the World Cup by finishing level with South Africa on points and goal-difference following the second round group stage of CAF qualification, only advancing on goals scored. A lacklustre showing at the Africa Cup of Nations where Ghana finished bottom of its group – Morocco, Gabon, and Comoros – with just a single point from three matches. That prompted the departure of coach Milovan Rajevac, who was replaced on a caretaker basis by Otto Addo. Of note, Addo has retained his position at Borussia Dortmund in Germany while managing the national team.
Drawn with archrivals Nigeria in the next round, a scoreless draw in the home leg set the stage for a hard-fought 1-1 draw in the return fixture a few days later, Qatar-bound on away goals.
Less than convincing outings in qualification for the 2023 AFCON, a difficult outing at the Kirin Cup in Japan, and some tough friendly results – losing 2-1 to Qatar and 3-0 to Brazil – have finally given way to some better results of late, including a 2-0 victory over Switzerland on Nov. 17, the final warm-up before Group H play begins at the World Cup.
Player to Watch: Thomas Partey
The industrious Arsenal midfielder is given more freedom for his national side – it was Partey who scored the goal that secured Ghana’s spot. High-profile, in his prime, and competing regularly at the upper echelons of the game, he will be expected to shoulder a lot of the responsibility, both on and off the pitch, for Ghana.
Group H Winner Odds
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With Portugal (-500) and Uruguay (-250) the clear favourites to emerge, the battle may well come down to which one comes out on top. With margins slim, Uruguay to beat out Portugal to the top spot (+187) looks like a possibility.
But should Son be fit for South Korea, and it could find a way into the knockout rounds (+225).
On the other hand, should things play out as expected, the battle to avoid finishing bottom of the group will be equally fascinating: South Korea (+100) or Ghana (+110).
Group H World Cup Winner Odds
Again, both Portugal (+1600) and Uruguay (+4000) are potential candidates, albeit longshots, to win the competition if they can find the way to blend that valuable experience with younger talent.
Group H Prop Betting Odds
In the “Top Scorer” category Portugal’s Ronaldo (+2000) is a candidate – he will be eager to make his mark on what could be his final World Cup, so too are Uruguay’s Suarez (+5000) and Nunez (+5000).
A Ronaldo/Portugal pick in the joint category of “Winner and Top Scorer” (+15000) would make for a dramatic turn of events, while if he is central to Portuguese success Ronaldo winning the “Golden Ball” is possible (+2000).
Group H Soccer Betting Final Thoughts
Group H is shaping up to be one of the more fiercely contested quartets in Qatar. There are two favourites, but with so much shared history across the four sides these games should be fascinating.