Everything you need to know about Group H at the World Cup

Portugal

Uruguay

Ghana

S. Korea

Uruguay

South Korea

Ghana

Portugal

Ghana

Uruguay

South Korea

Portugal

Uruguay

South Korea

Ghana

Portugal

This group is one of the harder to predict ahead of this World Cup. Portugal is No. 9 in FIFA’s rankings, but also needed two wins in the playoffs to even secure its spot in Qatar. It remains to be seen if Uruguay can finally put all the pieces together and advance deep into the knockout stages of a major tournament. South Korea, as in years past, will hope that its supporting cast can do enough to help its star, while Ghana holds the No. 61 ranking, the lowest of any team in the World Cup field.

Here’s a closer look at Group H, which kicks off Nov. 24 when Uruguay faces South Korea and Portugal takes on Ghana.

Portugal

For a team that counts one of the biggest stars in all of sports as its captain, Portugal came dangerously close to missing out on the world’s biggest event. The Portuguese needed two dramatic wins in the playoffs this spring to secure their place in the World Cup. In a manageable group with global superstar Cristiano Ronaldo at the helm — playing in what could be his final major tournament — they’ll hope their road in Qatar is smoother than the road they took to it.

Portugal

in the World Cup

Portugal has been in the last five World Cups. Its best finish was third in 1966.

Did not

participate

Group

stage

Round

of 16

Quarter-

finals

Semi-

finals

Final

Winner

’30

’34

’38

’50

’54

’58

’62

’66

’70

’74

’78

’82

’86

’90

’94

’98

’02

’06

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Portugal

in the World Cup

Portugal has been in the last five World Cups. Its best finish was third in 1966.

Did not

participate

Group

stage

Round

of 16

Quarter-

finals

Semi-

finals

Final

Winner

’30

’34

’38

’50

’54

’58

’62

’66

’70

’74

’78

’82

’86

’90

’94

’98

’02

’06

’10

’14

’18

Portugal

in the World Cup

Portugal has been in the last five World Cups. Its best finish was third in 1966.

Champion

Final

Semifinals

Quarterfinals

Round of 16

Group stage

Did not

participate

’30

’34

’38

’50

’54

’58

’62

’66

’70

’74

’78

’82

’86

’90

’94

’98

’02

’06

’10

’14

’18

Portugal has no shortage of talent, but its squad has struggled to live up to its full potential since winning the European Championship in 2016. Its trip to Russia in 2018 ended with a disappointing loss to Uruguay — a group-mate this year — in the round of 16. It counts a UEFA Nations League in 2019 among the trophies won under Fernando Santos, but its 13th-place finish at Euro 2020 was the lowest in the country’s history.

After last summer, Portugal took the long route through qualifying. A dispiriting draw with Ireland and a loss to group-leader Serbia in the final two matches of UEFA’s Group A meant that the Navegadores could not qualify for Qatar directly, and they were forced to enter the European qualifying playoffs. Portugal needed a 3-1 win over Turkey and then a 2-0 win against North Macedonia to secure its place.

Coach

Fernando

Santos

Projected lineup

N. Mendes

R. Leão

R. Neves

R. Dias

D. Costa

B.Fernandes

C. Ronaldo

D. Pereira

W. Carvalho

B. Silva

J. Cancelo

Coach

Fernando Santos

Projected lineup

Nuno Mendes

Rafael Leão

Rúben Neves

Rúben Dias

D. Costa

B.Fernandes

C. Ronaldo

Danilo Pereira

William Carvalho

Bernardo Silva

João Cancelo

Projected lineup

Nuno Mendes

Rafael Leão

Rúben Neves

Rúben Dias

D. Costa

B.Fernandes

C. Ronaldo

Danilo Pereira

William Carvalho

Bernardo Silva

Coach

Fernando Santos

68 years old

João Cancelo

The Premier League is well-represented here: Nine players on Portugal’s roster come from three English teams (Manchester United, Manchester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers). Midfielder Bruno Fernandes, a United teammate of Ronaldo’s who is known for his goal-scoring and creativity, came off the bench in Russia but will have a much more significant role this time around. Center back Rúben Dias, right back João Cancelo and midfielder Bernardo Silva all star for City.

The star

Cristiano Ronaldo

37 years old, Funchal, Portugal

Manchester United

National

team stats

191

games

117

goals

The star

Cristiano Ronaldo

37 years old, Funchal, Portugal

Manchester United

National

team stats

191

games

117

goals

The star

Cristiano Ronaldo

37 years old, Funchal, Portugal

Manchester United

National team stats

117

191

goals

games

Nineteen years after his national team debut, the 37-year-old Ronaldo is still Portugal’s undoubted star, well-established as his nation’s all-time leader in appearances and goals. He’s slowed down on the club level since his days as the winger leading Real Madrid to Champions League titles, but still possesses the game-changing scoring ability that made him one of the world’s most famous athletes.

All eyes will be watching to see if Ronaldo can set up a meeting with Lionel Messi, the former Barcelona star and longtime rival who is also likely playing at his final World Cup, in the knockout rounds. The two last faced each other on the club stage in the Champions League in 2020, but they’ve only played representing their national teams twice: a 2-1 Argentina win in 2011 and a 1-0 Portugal victory in 2014.

Ghana

The Black Stars arrive at their fourth World Cup on the heels of a turbulent year. After a disappointing Africa Cup of Nations performance and a managerial change, they’ll try to turn the corner in Qatar.

Ghana

in the World Cup

Ghana reached the quarterfinals in 2010, losing on penalties to Uruguay.

Did not

participate

Group

stage

Round

of 16

Quarter-

finals

Semi-

finals

Final

Winner

’30

’34

’38

’50

’54

’58

’62

’66

’70

’74

’78

’82

’86

’90

’94

’98

’02

’06

’10

’14

’18

Ghana

in the World Cup

Ghana reached the quarterfinals in 2010, losing on penalties to Uruguay.

Did not

participate

Group

stage

Round

of 16

Quarter-

finals

Semi-

finals

Final

Winner

’30

’34

’38

’50

’54

’58

’62

’66

’70

’74

’78

’82

’86

’90

’94

’98

’02

’06

’10

’14

’18

Ghana

in the World Cup

Ghana reached the quarterfinals in 2010, losing on penalties to Uruguay.

Champion

Final

Semifinals

Quarterfinals

Round of 16

Group stage

Did not

participate

’30

’34

’38

’50

’54

’58

’62

’66

’70

’74

’78

’82

’86

’90

’94

’98

’02

’06

’10

’14

’18

The Ghananians’ World Cup history is short but noteworthy. They’ve played high-profile matches against the United States at each of their three tournaments, winning in 2006 and 2010 but losing in 2014. The Dec. 2 group-stage match against Uruguay in this edition is sure to be circled on their calendars. It’ll be a rematch of an infamous 2010 quarterfinal in South Africa, when a controversial handball save by Luis Suárez denied Ghana a trip to the semifinals.

In the hopes of reviving the national team at this year’s AFCON, the Black Stars brought back Milovan Rajevac, the Serbian manager who’d led them on that run to the quarterfinals in 2010. It was a short-lived stint: Ghana hit a new low, losing to No. 132 Comoros — a country playing in its first continental tournament — and failing to advance out of the group stage. Rajevac was sacked and replaced by former national team winger Otto Addo just before the final round of qualifying. Facing off against Nigeria, Ghana earned a 0-0 draw on home soil on March 25 and then its place with a 1-1 tie on the road — thanks to an early score by Thomas Partey, the Black Stars advanced on FIFA’s away goals rule.

Coach

Otto Addo

Projected lineup

G. Mensah

A. Ayew

T. Partey

A. Djiku

A. Manaf Nurudeen

M. Kudus

I. Williams

D. Amartey

I. Baba

J. Ayew

D. Odoi

Coach

Otto Addo

Projected lineup

G. Mensah

A. Ayew

T. Partey

A. Djiku

A. Manaf Nurudeen

M. Kudus

I. Williams

D. Amartey

I. Baba

J. Ayew

D. Odoi

Projected lineup

G. Mensah

A. Ayew

T. Partey

A. Djiku

A. Manaf Nurudeen

M. Kudus

I. Williams

D. Amartey

I. Baba

J. Ayew

Coach

Otto Addo

47 years old

D. Odoi

Ghana has a solid number of players plying their trade in England: Partey is in Arsenal’s midfield, Jordan Ayew patrols the front line for Crystal Palace and Daniel Amartey is a defender at Leicester City. André Ayew (older brother of Jordan) now plays in Qatar’s top league and is past his peak days, but is still the squad’s captain. There’s also a promising array of young talents likely to make their World Cup debuts: Ajax midfielder Mohammed Kudus (age 22), Rennes winger Kalmadeen Sulemana (20) and striker Felix Afena-Gyan, a 19-year-old who broke out at Roma last season.

In July, Iñaki Williams, a Spain-born forward for Athletic Bilbao, and Tariq Lamptey, a wing back at Brighton in England, reclassified their nationalities and became eligible to represent Ghana. They made their first appearances for the Black Stars in September against Brazil and Nicaragua.

The star

Thomas Partey

29 years old, Odumase Krobo, Ghana

Arsenal

National

team stats

40

games

13

goals

The star

Thomas Partey

29 years old, Odumase Krobo, Ghana

Arsenal

National

team stats

40

games

13

goals

The star

Thomas Partey

29 years old, Odumase Krobo, Ghana

Arsenal

National team stats

13

40

goals

games

Partey became the most expensive Ghanaian player of all time when he moved to Arsenal in 2020 after five full seasons with Atlético Madrid. He’s had mixed results in London, missing much of last season’s finish and the start of this year’s Premier League campaign with a thigh injury, but when healthy is still the biggest star on his national team. The 29-year-old had three goals during World Cup qualifying and has been named the country’s top player in two of the last four years.

Uruguay

A two-time World Cup winner, the nation of 3.5 million — sequestered between two giants in Argentina and Brazil — has always had an outsize influence on the world’s game. Yet it’s also spent the last decade searching for another taste of a trophy. After a bumpy stretch, Uruguay has gotten back on track this year under the guidance of Diego Alonso.

Uruguay

in the World Cup

Uruguay hosted and won the first ever World Cup in 1930 and won its second in 1950.

Did not

participate

Group

stage

Round

of 16

Quarter-

finals

Semi-

finals

Final

Winner

’30

Uruguay 4,

Argentina 2

’34

’38

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’54

Uruguay 2,

Brazil 1

’58

’62

’66

’70

’74

’78

’82

’86

’90

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’98

’02

’06

’10

’14

’18

Uruguay

in the World Cup

Uruguay hosted and won the first ever World Cup in 1930 and won its second in 1950.

Did not

participate

Group

stage

Round

of 16

Quarter-

finals

Semi-

finals

Final

Winner

’30

’34

Uruguay 4,

Argentina 2

’38

’50

’54

Uruguay 2,

Brazil 1

’58

’62

’66

’70

’74

’78

’82

’86

’90

’94

’98

’02

’06

’10

’14

’18

Uruguay

in the World Cup

Uruguay hosted and won the first ever World Cup in 1930 and won its second in 1950.

Uruguay 4,

Argentina 2

Uruguay 2,

Brazil 1

Champion

Final

Semifinals

Quarterfinals

Round of 16

Group stage

Did not

participate

’30

’34

’38

’50

’54

’58

’62

’66

’70

’74

’78

’82

’86

’90

’94

’98

’02

’06

’10

’14

’18

The Uruguayans finished fourth at the 2010 World Cup, their best result since Mexico 1970. They followed that run with a Copa América title in 2011, the country’s first in 16 years. At the past two World Cups, they haven’t advanced further than the quarterfinals: The 2014 round-of-16 exit was marred by Luis Suárez’s ban for a biting incident and in 2o18, it lost to France.

Uruguay had a rocky road to Qatar. Last fall, it lost four qualifiers in a row — by a combined score of 11-1, no less — and sacked beloved manager Óscar Tabárez after 15 years in charge. Alonso’s arrival helped steer the ship, though, and the Uruguayans won his first four games, conceding only once, to qualify. In June, it faced the United States in a friendly and left Kansas City, Kan., with a 0-0 draw.

Coach

Diego

Alonso

Projected lineup

M. Viña

M. Vecino

D. Núñez

J. Giménez

L. Torreira

S. Rochet

D. Godín

R. Bentancur

L. Suárez

R. Araújo

F. Valverde

Coach

Diego Alonso

Projected lineup

M. Viña

M. Vecino

D. Núñez

J. Giménez

L. Torreira

S. Rochet

D. Godín

R. Bentancur

L. Suárez

R. Araújo

F. Valverde

Projected lineup

M. Viña

M. Vecino

D. Núñez

J. Giménez

L. Torreira

S. Rochet

D. Godín

R. Bentancur

L. Suárez

Coach

Diego Alonso

47 years old

R. Araújo

F. Valverde

Suárez and Edinson Cavani have been faces of the Uruguayan attack at the World Cup since 2010, when they both debuted on the major stage as 23-year-olds. The former remains Uruguay’s all-time leading scorer and this summer moved back to his boyhood club, Nacional, in Montevideo after a long and successful (albeit, often controversial) run in Europe. He and Cavani, now at Valencia in Spain, are both 35 but figure to still play significant roles.

Federico Valverde (Real Madrid) and Rodrigo Bentancur (Tottenham) are both younger talents in the middle of strong club seasons, while Flamengo’s Giorgian de Arrascaeta was the country’s second-leading scorer with five goals in qualifying. The back line has seen a string of injuries in the past year, but defenders like José Giménez, Ronald Araújo and Diego Godín are impressive when healthy.

The star

Darwin Núñez

23 years old, Artigas, Uruguay

Liverpool

National

team stats

13

games

3

goals

The star

Darwin Núñez

23 years old, Artigas, Uruguay

Liverpool

National

team stats

13

games

3

goals

The star

Darwin Núñez

23 years old, Artigas, Uruguay

Liverpool

National team stats

3

13

goals

games

In South Africa, Suárez was the young striker playing alongside an established star. He finished that tournament with three goals behind Diego Forlán’s five and was named to FIFA’s all-star team. In Qatar, the roles could be reversed, with Suárez the experienced veteran and Darwin Núñez the emerging star.

The 23-year-old striker was one of the most sought-after players on the transfer market this summer after a 26-goal campaign with Benfica, eventually becoming Liverpool’s record signing in June. Núñez scored in his debut for La Celeste in 2019 and in a friendly vs. Canada last month, but has yet to represent his country in a major tournament after missing the 2021 Copa América with a knee injury.

South Korea

This year will mark exactly two decades since South Korea’s most memorable moment on soccer’s biggest stage: The Taegeuk Warriors had never won a World Cup game in their history before 2002, but went on a run all the way to the semifinals and finished in fourth place. The competition in this year’s group won’t make their path forward any easier this year, but they do have one of the tournament’s — and the sport’s — biggest stars and will be worth watching.

South Korea

in the World Cup

South Korea’s best result was at the World Cup it hosted in 2002, where it reached the semifinals.

Did not

participate

Group

stage

Round

of 16

Quarter-

finals

Semi-

finals

Final

Winner

’30

’34

’38

’50

’54

’58

’62

’66

’70

’74

’78

’82

’86

’90

’94

’98

’02

’06

’10

’14

’18

South Korea

in the World Cup

South Korea’s best result was at the World Cup it hosted in 2002, where it reached the semifinals.

Did not

participate

Group

stage

Round

of 16

Quarter-

finals

Semi-

finals

Final

Winner

’30

’34

’38

’50

’54

’58

’62

’66

’70

’74

’78

’82

’86

’90

’94

’98

’02

’06

’10

’14

’18

South Korea

in the World Cup

South Korea’s best result was at the World Cup it hosted in 2002, where it reached the semifinals.

Champion

Final

Semifinals

Quarterfinals

Round of 16

Group stage

Did not

participate

’30

’34

’38

’50

’54

’58

’62

’66

’70

’74

’78

’82

’86

’90

’94

’98

’02

’06

’10

’14

’18

South Korea hasn’t missed a World Cup since 1982, but in the past four tournaments, it has only advanced past the group stage once. The 2018 edition in Russia wasn’t without its highlights, though: It knocked out defending champion Germany in a dramatic 2-0 group-stage win dubbed “The Miracle of Kazan.”

The South Koreans sealed their 10th consecutive World Cup appearance with a win over Syria in February. They played that qualifier without talismanic star Son Heung-min, but still managed to earn the automatic berth. In a crowded Group H, South Korea does hold the recent head-to-head advantage over both Portugal (a 1-0 group-stage win in 2002) and Uruguay (a 2-1 victory in a 2018 friendly in Seoul).

Coach

Paulo

Bento

Projected lineup

K. Jin-su

S. Heung-min

K. Young-gwon

J. Woo-young

K. Seung-gyu

L. Jae-sung

H. Ui-jo

K. Min-jae

H. In-beom

K. Moon-hwan

H. Hee-chan

Coach

Paulo Bento

Projected lineup

K. Jin-su

S. Heung-min

K. Young-gwon

J. Woo-young

K. Seung-gyu

L. Jae-sung

H. Ui-jo

K. Min-jae

H. In-beom

K. Moon-hwan

H. Hee-chan

Projected lineup

K. Jin-su

S. Heung-min

K. Young-gwon

J. Woo-young

K. Seung-gyu

H. Ui-jo

L. Jae-sung

K. Min-jae

H. In-beom

Coach

Paulo Bento

53 years old

K. Moon-hwan

H. Hee-chan

The biggest question for the Taegeuk Warriors is the same as it was in 2018: Can they find enough supporting cast members to fill in the pieces behind a star as big and bright as Son? The majority of South Korea’s players come from the domestic K League, but a few play around Europe. Hwang Hee-chan, a 26-year-old forward nicknamed “The Bull,” is in his second season at Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League. Center back Kim Min-jae is having a career-best season at Napoli in Serie A, while 26-year-old Hwang In-beom and experienced scorer Hwang Ui-jo are both at Olympiacos in Greece.

The star

Son Heung-min

30 years old, Chuncheon-si, South Korea

Tottenham Hotspur

National

team stats

104

games

35

goals

The star

Son Heung-min

30 years old, Chuncheon-si, South Korea

Tottenham Hotspur

National

team stats

104

games

35

goals

The star

Son Heung-min

30 years old, Chuncheon-si, South Korea

Tottenham Hotspur

National team stats

35

104

goals

games

South Korea may not advance past the group stage, but Son is still sure to be one of the stars in Qatar this fall. (He’s one of the most-followed Asian athletes on Instagram, and his level of fame on the continent rivals — or surpasses — that of some of the country’s biggest K-pop groups.)

He’s not bad on the field, either: The Tottenham winger won the Premier League’s Golden Boot with 23 goals last season and is fourth on his country’s all-time scoring list. He had also seven goals for South Korea during the qualifying campaign. After a slow start this season with Tottenham, Son opened his goal account just before the international break with a second-half hat trick in September.

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