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Portugal, Ghana both playing to win Thursday
By: Brian Graham - StatFox
Published: 6/26/2014  at  4:40:00 AM
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2014 WORLD CUP SOCCER

PORTUGAL


vs. GHANA


Kickoff: Thursday, 12:00 p.m. EDT
Nacional Brasilia, Brazil

Line:
Portugal +135, Ghana +177, Tie +260
Over/Under: 3.5 Goals (Over +155, Under -188)

Group G play of the 2014 World Cup wraps up on Thursday afternoon with Portugal and Ghana both needing a win and some help to push through to the Round of 16.

Portugal is quite a longshot to advance due to their minus-4 goal differential, but if they can beat Ghana 3-0 and have Germany beat the United States by a 2-0 margin, they will advance to the knockout stage. Ghana would only need to win 2-0 over Portugal plus a 1-0 Germany victory over the U.S. to reach the Round of 16. Both of these clubs are coming off somewhat surprising draws, as Portugal needed a goal in the 95th minute versus the United States to keep its chances intact of advancing, while Ghana played heavily-favored Germany to a 2-2 draw in its last match. Ghana's Michael Essien is unlikely to start again due to his lingering toe injury, but Portugal should see an improvement on their back line with the return of Pepe who missed the last game after his silly head-butt to Germany's Thomas Muller.

Portugal, referred to as Seleccao, saw star Cristiano Ronaldo play a horrible match versus the US due largely to a lingering knee injury, but he still found a way to serve a perfect cross to the head of Silvestre Varela in the final minute of stoppage time to help his team earn a draw and keep small hopes alive for moving on in this tournament. Nani opened the scoring in that epic draw with an easy goal five minutes in off a horrible clear by the American defender. Although Portugal carries a minus-4 goal differential due to getting waxed 4-0 by Germany in the World Cup Opener, the team has outshot both of its opponents, holding a 20-15 total shots advantage over the U.S. after outshooting Germany 14-13. But of Seleccao's 34 shots in the World Cup, only 18 have been on net. Portugal has also been pretty even in ball possession, holding a slim 52% to 48% advantage over the Americans after allowing the Germans to have a 54% possession.

Ghana, known as The Black Stars, really put the pressure on the Germans in their last match with 20 total shots, including 10 on goal. Germany attempted only 11 shots with six on goal. That gives Ghana 41 total shots (18 on goal) for the tournament while limiting their opponents to a paltry 19 total shots (13 on goal). Ghana's 4-3-3 formation and excellent goaltending by Fatau Dauda could cause trouble for Portugal's erratic attack. The Black Stars did lose possession time to Germany by a substantial 59% to 41% margin, which was just the opposite of their first game when they held the ball 60% of the time versus the Americans. But Ghana has played extremely rough in this tournament with 27 fouls and three yellow cards. Two of those cards went to midfielder Sulley Muntari's whose booking in the 94th minute of the battle of Germany will earn him a one-game suspension. Midfielder Mohammed Rabiu also has to be careful not to pick up another yellow card like he did in that first match. Ghana's lone goal of their first match came at the 82nd minute from Andre Ayew, assisted by Asamoah Gyan on a sweet back-heel pass. This duo was at it again versus Germany with one goal each -- Ayew tallying at the 54th minute, and Gyan scoring nine minutes later.

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