On June 16th, Germany and Portugal will both travel to the Arena Fonte Nova to kick off their respective World Cup campaigns. Group G has been marked by some as the ‘group of death’. It is without doubt a very strong group with all four teams inside the top 40 in the FIFA rankings. Germany are the favourites to win the group with Portugal tipped to finish second.
The Germans will go into the World Cup as one of the favorites to win the tournament. They have reached the semi-finals in each of the last two World Cups (finishing fourth in 2006 and third in 2010) and will hope to reach their first final since 2002. The Germans will be looking for their first major tournament victory since their win at Euro 1996. Germany are going into the World Cup with only one recognised striker, 36 year old Lazio striker Miroslav Klose. Germany have been ravaged by injuries heading into the World Cup. They have lost important players like Marco Reus, Lars Bender, Sven Bender, Marcel Schmelzer, and Ilkay Gundogan just to name a few. Phillip Lahm and Bastian Schwienstager are also dealing with knocks but still made the squad. Germany have not dropped points in their first World Cup game since 1986 and have scored at least four goals in their first group game in the last three World Cups.
Manuel Neuer is recovering from his shoulder injury well and looks like he will play. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philip Lahm also look set to play despite dealing with injuries.
Main Man: Mesut Ozil
Mesut Ozil was one of the breakout stars in the 2010 World Cup. The German playmaker will hope to build on that and star in the 2014 World Cup and lead Germany to glory. The former Real Madrid man had an up and down season after making a £42.4m move to Arsenal. Ozil did end the season well with Arsenal after he came back from his hamstring injury, topping off his season with an FA Cup victory. The German playmaker created a chance every 28 minutes in his first season in England. The consensus was that his 14 assists over all competitions could have been more had he had better personnel around him, which he will with Germany. Ozil has the ability to run the show and much of Germany’s success can run through the Arsenal number 10.
The x factor for this game and throughout the tournament will be the play of whoever plays centre-forward for the Germans. With Klose as the only striker on the roster, the Germans could go for a false nine with either Mario Gotze or Mesut Ozil. Whoever it is in that position needs to do well. It’s very difficult to win a World Cup without a good striker and whoever plays there must score goals. Klose will look to become the all time leader in World Cup goals. If he can play well and score goals then Germany’s chances of winning this game and the entire tournament go way up.
The Portuguese come into the World Cup expecting to get out of the group, but it will certainly be a difficult ordeal because of the group they are in. Portugal have their hopes pinned on one player, Cristiano Ronaldo. Paulo Bento’s squad will go as far as Ronaldo will drag them. Because of their lack of quality in some positions, specifically at centre-forward, the Portuguese can not be considered as anything more than a dark horse. They will be looking to win the first major tournament for the country. The main talk for Portugal in the build up to the World Cup is the state of their main man, Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid superstar has been dealing with some knee injuries that may or may not have something to do with a Ghanaian witch doctor. After playing 65 minutes in a friendly against the Republic of Ireland, Ronaldo left training with an ice pack taped around his knee. If Ronaldo is restricted by injury, then Portugal’s chances of getting out of the group are hugely damaged.
The Portuguese have two injuries to deal with but they are both to big time players. Real Madrid centre-back Pepe continues to recover from a calf injury and could still play vs Germany. Ronaldo was thought to be fine after playing 65 minutes in a friendly against Ireland. However, Ronaldo was seen exiting training early with an ice pack strapped to his knee. Portugal will hope and pray that he is able to play and play effectively.
Main Man: Cristiano Ronaldo
As said above, Portugal’s hopes live and die with the performances of Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid superstar is arguably the best player in the world at the moment. Ronaldo has scored more than a goal a game in his time at Real Madrid (252 goals in 246 games). The former Manchester United man carried Paulo Bento’s men into the tournament in the first place, scoring all four goals in the two legged play off victory over Sweden. If Ronaldo is held back by his knee troubles then Portugal are in huge trouble.
The x factor for this game will be how the Portuguese midfield trio fairs against the incredibly strong German midfield. The midfield trio will likely feature Joao Moutinho, Raul Merieles, and one of William Carvalho or Miguel Veloso. All of those midfielders are very solid and could cause the Germam midfield problems. Joao Moutinho is the key creative man in the midfield and will look to feed their main man, Cristiano Ronaldo. If the midfield three can neutralise the German midfield then Portugal have a good chance at coming out with the three points. That task of course is much easier said than done.
Germany will want to start this tournament strong and show they are serious contenders. I believe they will do just that and get a huge confidence boosting victory.