Portugal and Germany face tricky task


  • The Gaffer
  • Saturday, 01 Mar 2014

TWO more groups before I end my world cup group reviews. I hate to say this but I wished Sweden was in the group instead of Portugal. Blagult were close but they were undone by Cristiano Ronaldo’s superb performance.

That aside, this is going to be a very interesting group. On paper, Portugal and Germany are the favourites but never take Ghana and USA away from the equation. Both teams have been doing well in recent years.

All four teams have what it takes to contest for the top two spots. What’s my verdict? Here is my take on group  G.


Germany

They are the favourites for this tournament. Most of their players have experienced the big stage but this time, they will want to win the trophy for the fourth time! 

Under Joachim Loew, their fans are confident that this side can bring back the coveted trophy to Germany. The number of talents in this country is just immense. 

Loew has the riches to select players and he will surely bring a formidable squad for their title assault. 

They’ve got the world’s best goalkeeper in Manuel Neuer. He has been consistent this season and he will surely bring that form to Brazil. 

In defense, they’ve got captain Philip Lahm who will be probing from the wings and Mats Hummels setting the tone as the centre-back. 

Bastian Schweinsteinger will be the holding midfielder together with Bayer Leverkusen’s Lars Bender or Sami Khedira, if he recovers from his long-term injury. 

Mesut Ozil together with Marco Reus will open up defenses with their passes and provide crosses for players like Mario Gomez or Miroslav Klose to pounce on. 

They’ve got quality in all positions. 

As a neutral, I’m expecting some scintillating displays from this Germany side. 

Youngsters like Julian Draxler and Mario Gotze will also play a part in this world cup and this is one way for them to announce to the world that they’re not just hot prospects but world-class players! 

Loew knows he has a big task but his calm demeanour and experience as a international coach will help him pull through in Brazil.


Portugal

In the late 90s, players like Luis Figo, Rui Costa, Fernando Couto, Joao Pinto and Sergio Conceicao were dubbed as the golden generation but they underachieved in the big stage. 

Luis Figo came close to breaking that but Portugal lost the Euro 2004 title to Greece. 

This time, there is no golden generation but there is one talisman who is set to shoulder the burden of the nation. 

Cristiano Ronaldo just won the Ballon D Or and he will surely want to complete his good season by winning the world cup for his country. 

However, he will be hoping that the other players in Portugal will ease his burden and help steer the side. 

Pepe will be the rock in defense while Fabio Coentrao and Joao Perreira will play their role as marauding wing-backs. 

Miguel Veloso will be the defensive midfielder shielding the back line. Monaco’s Joao Moutinho will be the play maker and he will be assisted by the mercurial Ronaldo. 

Helder Postiga might be first choice forward for them but the goals will come from Ronaldo. 

Portugal’s coach Paulo Bento certainly relies a lot on Ronaldo and it showed during the playoffs when Ronaldo scored all the goals in the two-legged game against Sweden. 

Bento has to find a way to make sure that the other players perform. If not it will be detrimental for the A Selecao in this group!

Ghana


In the last world cup, they were in the quarter-finals and could have gone to the semi-finals if Luis Suarez hadn’t block that header from Asamoah Gyan. 

He missed the penalty and the Ghanaians were kicked out by Uruguay through penalties. 

This time, they will want to avenge that but they have to find a way to manoeuvre past this group first. 

Joseph Appiah has got talented players in his disposal and he will have to find a way to make use of this squad. 

Richard Kingson looks set to be the first choice goalkeeper and he will be protected by the likes of Isaac Vorsah, Jonathan Mensah, Daniel Opare and Samuel Inkoom in defense. 

Watching their midfield will be a mouthwatering prospect. 

If all these players click, they can be unstoppable. Kevin Prince Boateng will be the chief creator while Marseille’s Andre Ayew and Juventus’s Kwadwo Asamoah will probe from the wings. 

Veteran midfielders Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari, both playing for AC Milan will protect the backline led by Mensah. 

Asamoah Gyan maybe playing in a smaller league but when it comes to national duty, he rarely disappoints! Appiah will now have to mould these players and make sure they are disciplined throughout the tournament. 

They can give any teams a run for their money if they are on form.


USA

Under Jurgen Klinsmann, USA has looked more organised and technically better in recent years. 

This time, they’ve got more players to select from their roster. 

Major League Soccer has improved since stars like Juan Pablo Angel, David Beckham and Thierry Henry joined their clubs and because of that, lots of American players are coming out from that league and benefiting from their presence. 

Their European based players will be the key players in their squad. Tim Howard will be the goalkeeper and this might be his last world cup as he is turning 35 this year. 

In defense, they’ve got veteran Carlos Bocanegra and LA Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez as centre-back. 

Right-back Geoff Cameron will be the one to watch this world cup as he impressing with Stoke in the Premier League and teams will have to watch out for his long throw-ins! Michael Bradley will be a combative presence in midfield and his experiences with AS Roma will surely come in handy for the national squad. 

I’m expecting Mikkel Diskerud and Joshua Gatt to get some game time this world cup because of their creativity and ability to create chances from midfield. 

Clint Dempsey will be the main forward for them and Landon Donovan will play behind Dempsey in what promises to be a mouth watering partnership. 

They don’t have players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Lionel Messi or Ronaldo in their squad but if these Yanks stick together and follow Klinsmann’s tactical instructions, they can be one tough nut to crack!


Verdict

Germany will be one of two teams to qualify out of the group stages. 

That leaves me with Portugal, Ghana and USA. All these teams have got international pedigree but only one will follow Germany to the next round. 

In my opinion, Ronaldo will be the difference and he will surely rally his teammates to help Portugal to qualify. Germany and Portugal to qualify from this group but it’s not going to be an easy passage for them!

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