Uruguay coach Alonso wants his players to ‘break free’ against Ghana
DOHA – After five-goal thrillers in their opening two World Cup matches, Ghana may be hoping to reach the last 16 with a little less drama when they meet Uruguay on Friday, but their opponents must win to avoid a humiliating early exit.
A draw for the tournament’s lowest-ranked side could be enough for Ghana to join Portugal in the knockout phase, while that single point could also make for yet another nail-biter for the West Africans in Friday’s simultaneous two-match finale, where all four Group H teams have a shot at qualifying.
Portugal lead the group on six points, ahead of Ghana (three). South Korea and Uruguay have a point each.
Uruguay must win in Al Wakrah to go through and will need to fire up their big-name forwards and shake off some dire form that saw them held by the Koreans and outclassed by Portugal.
It will not be a surprise if coach Diego Alonso is playing Queen’s I Want To Break Free in his dressing room to motivate his players, after he said on Thursday that he wants them to do just that – to play freely.
“That we can let go, that we can have the confidence we had in the qualifiers,” he said.
“Letting go where we should be – enjoying being at a party, at a World Cup, being able to give our best. I believe in them, I believe in my players.
“We understand the importance of the game and what we are playing for. We knew it was a possibility to reach the last game with qualification at stake. Here we are, alive, and believing in ourselves.”
Veteran strikers Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani and talented newcomer Darwin Nunez all struggled in their opening matches, and Alonso must choose whether to keep faith with them or opt for starts for Facundo Pellistri and Maxi Gomez, who have provided Uruguay’s few moments of excitement.
The South American side have not exited a World Cup at the group stage in 20 years and Alonso knows something different will be required against Ghana, who have reached the last 16 in two of their three World Cup appearances.
“We’re going to use all the weapons at our disposal,” the coach added.
“We have to let ourselves go. The team has to be relaxed and play.”
If Ghana play for the draw, they will be gambling on Portugal beating South Korea, a team famous for their fighting spirit, as proven when they came back from two goals down against Ghana on Monday, before losing 3-2.
For the Black Stars, a win could avenge an acrimonious quarter-final defeat by Uruguay in the 2010 World Cup, when Suarez used his hand to block an extra-time winner for Ghana, who missed the resulting spot kick and lost in the penalty shoot-out that followed.
Coach Otto Addo said that will not be on his mind and knows his side will need to be at their best to stop Uruguay.
“They have very good strikers, lots of experience and they are a very compact, very good team,” he said.
“But I am confident enough to know that we can win this game.” - REUTERS