The final set of teams to begin play at the 2022 World Cup could produce the most fireworks. Group H features four nations with a penchant for deep tournament runs, upsets, and performing on the biggest stages. For neutral viewers, the collection of Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, and South Korea represents the biggest unknown of potential knockout-round participants, with clear favorites to advance but no easy matches.
November 24th - Uruguay vs. South Korea, 8:00am ET/5:00am PT; Portugal vs. Ghana, 11:00am ET/8:00am PT
November 28th - South Korea vs. Ghana, 8:00am ET/ 5:00am PT; Portugal vs. Uruguay, 2:00pm ET/11:00am PT
December 2nd - Ghana vs. Uruguay, 10:00am ET/7:00am PT; South Korea vs. Portugal, 10:00am ET/7:00am PT
The presumptive favorite is also the team whose failure would surprise few observers. Qualification was a bit of a saga after a second-place finish in UEFA’s Group A, three points behind Serbia. A Seleção (The Selection) took the long road, defeating Turkey and North Macedonia in the playoffs to secure one of the final spots in Qatar.
Despite the bumpy journey, this could be one of the most talented squads in the country’s history, perhaps surpassing the group that won the European Championship in 2016. The roster is populated with experienced players in the prime of their careers competing at some of the world’s top clubs, mixed in with veterans who ideally provide the valuable je ne sais quoi necessary to succeed in knockout tournaments. There’s also that five-time Ballon d’Or winner whose current form is under water, but he always manages to pull through in big moments.
FIFA Ranking: 9
Odds of Winning Group: Favorite
One to Watch: When the attacking unit goes cold, the defense will be required to grind out tough results. Since moving over from Benfica, Rúben Dias has locked down the starting center back position at Manchester City, bringing his combination of strength and technical ability to the Premier League. At only 25 years old, he is a calming presence on the back line and is considered among the best in the world. His likely partner, Danilo Pereira, will provide more of an aerial threat to form a fairly balanced duo.
The African nation returns to the World Cup for the fourth time in five tries after failing to qualify for the 2018 competition. The Black Stars may be the lowest-ranked team in the group, but nobody is counting out Otto Addo’s squad. There is talent on every corner of the roster, although this may be a mere warm-up act for an even stronger 2026 performance.
Qualification was a challenge, but Ghana proved capable of weathering the storm. The team finished atop Group G, tied with South Africa on points and goal differential. A spot in the all-important third round was secured based on “goals scored” following a 1-0 win in the final fixture that featured a “controversial penalty.” The deciding two-leg series against Nigeria ended at 1-1 on aggregate, with the ticket to Qatar booked by a crucial away goal.
FIFA Ranking: 61
Odds of Winning Group: Needs Some Help
One to Watch: Ghana has a few scoring threats but none as experienced as André Ayew, currently on the books at Al Sadd in the Qatar Stars League. The 32-year-old attacker has played at two previous World Cups and contributed 23 goals in 107 international appearances. While no longer possessing the same electricity as years past, his production was a key asset in securing qualification. Look for the captain to be deployed all across the front line in an attempt to unlock space.
Winning two of the first four World Cups is a crowning achievement, but early success also established an impossible standard that has lasted for almost a century. Considering the country has the lowest population in CONMEBOL at roughly 3.5 million people (nearest, Paraguay, more than doubles at over 7.25 million), La Celeste has always punched above weight and produced world-class players. Manager Diego Alonso will receive little quarter, especially considering he took over from Óscar Tabárez, who ended his 15-year reign in November of 2021.
Uruguay endured the grueling extended campaign that is South American qualifying, finishing third with 28 points behind Brazil and Argentina. That total – a slight drop below 31 in 2018 – was more than enough to avoid the inter-confederation playoffs. Despite winning the necessary matches, failing to take a single point off the two dominant regional powers could portend an early exit for a veteran-heavy squad on the outside of the elite category.
FIFA Ranking: 14
Odds of Winning Group: In The Running
One to Watch: There may be a goalkeeper controversy brewing. Despite playing a relatively ageless position, Fernando Muslera is beginning to push the boundaries at 36 years old, and his knee ligament injury left the door wide open. He continues to start for Galatasaray, his club since 2011, and excels at shot-stopping, using his elite reflexes to palm and kick away short-range opportunities. As international soccer tends to be a little less frenetic, the requirements could benefit safer players with the ability to make one incredible save instead of constantly putting out fires. Domestic competitor Sergio Rochet appears to have taken over the lead role, providing a combination of steadiness and swagger that energized Uruguay through qualifying. The manager has a decision to make between the veteran and the upstart, at a spot where mistakes can doom tournament runs.
One of the world’s most consistent programs, 태극전사 (Taegeuk Warriors) have qualified for ten consecutive World Cups, beginning with the 1986 competition. While normally exiting during the group stage, this team could easily reach the knockout stages. Manager Paulo Bento has a strong roster of veteran players and younger European-based talent that will handle the bright lights of Qatar.
Qualification was a relative stroll. South Korea eased through Group H of the Asian Football Confederation’s second round with a 5-0-1 record, surrendering a single goal. The succeeding round was similarly perfunctory: a second-place finish in Group A with a 7-1-2 record, two points behind Iran. The challenging friendly slate over the past year should pay dividends at the final competition.
FIFA Ranking: 28
Odds of Winning Group: In The Running
One to Watch: The World Cup run will last as long as Son Heung-min (sometimes stylized Heung-min Son) produces and not a minute further. The Tottenham striker recently underwent surgery after fracturing “the bones around his eye” in four places against Marseille, but he is expected to be ready and masked up for the opening match against Uruguay. The 30-year-old is South Korea’s best talent, captain, and talisman, a dynamic and versatile attacker who can line up in a variety of positions. The complete player is an expert dribbler, incisive passer, adroit counter-attacker, and lethal finisher. Observers also praise his intelligence, understanding of space, and tireless work rate.
Who will advance from Group H? What matches are most interesting to you? Let us know in the comments.