World Cup Preview: Group G
We have now arrived to the dreaded "Group of Death." The group that seems impossible to see how any of the teams can possibly survive group play-- even if two teams advance to the next stage. 2014's version has four teams that all advanced to the knockout stage in 2010. United States won their group only to lose to Ghana in the round of 16. Portugal was ousted by Spain in the same round. Ghana lost to Uruguay in the quarterfinals in penalty kick shootouts. Germany lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Spain. Most feel Germany will be one team to advance, but the question becomes which of the other three will survive to claim the second spot to the next stage.
Let's take a look at the teams:
Germany- Talk about a country that doesn't seem to make many headlines but is constantly getting themselves to at least the semifinal round of the tournament. While they still haven't won another Cup title since winning in Italy 1990, they have lost to the eventual champs in 2010 (Spain), 2006 (Italy), and 2002 (Brazil) in the last three World Cups. Add the fact that they also made the semifinals in both the 2008 and 2012 Euro Cup, and you have yourself quite a futbol factory that seems like they are constantly on the cusp of breaking through for yet another World Cup trophy. They bring some very familiar names like Bastian Schweinsteiger, Phillip Lahm, and Miroslav Klose, but they also bring some young and quite deadly talent in Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, and Marco Reus. Their last loss was a year ago when their B team was downed 4-3 by the United States-- they'll get a shot at returning the favor in group play.
Ghana- Before being thwarted in PKs by Uruguay in 2010, Ghana seemed poised to become the first African team to reach the semifinals. Their midfield is anchored by Kwadwo Assamoah and Michael Essien and they will set up the attack of Asamoah Gyan. They bring speed that will give United States and Portugal some uncomfortable headaches and could find themselves in the knockout stage again in 2014.
Portugal- We all know how dangerous Cristiano Ronaldo is-- more than 50 goals scored for Real Madrid across all competitions in each of the last four seasons. The question now is how healthy will he be when Group G begins play on June 16. He has been dealing with knee and thigh issues, and just started to train with the team again. If he isn't fully healthy, Portugal still brings plenty of talent. They have Joao Mourinho and Raul Meireles to the mix and they may have to carry the load if Ronaldo isn't fully healthy. For all their talent, Portugal is a historically underachieving selection when it comes to international competition. So much so that needed to beat Sweden in a home and home playoff to qualify. As a favorite in 2010, they were gone by the round of 16. As a favorite in 2002, they failed to make it out of group play. They have talent to make a deep run, but they can also completely bomb and be done after the three group games.
United States- Jurgen Klinsmann made a huge statement by keeping Landon Donovan off the 23-man roster. While Donovan has been the greatest American soccer player, he was not and hasn't been 100%. He hasn't been anywhere near where he needed to be on the selection. After scoring twice in their final warm up against Nigeria, it seems that Jozy Altidore has regained his scoring touch that he has been missing since December. Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley are gonna set Altidore up plenty and can score themselves. While he is the right back, Fabian Johnson will integrate himself in the attack and might score some as he did against Turkey. Tim Howard is one the best goaltenders in the world. He will need to be at the top of his game because the Americans biggest question mark is in the four men in front of Howard. Howard will have to make a lot of amazing saves to give US any chance of advancing to the knockout stage.
Best Match- Any of these matches will be huge and could make or break each selections' chances of making out of the group stage. For the fact that US is the last team to beat Germany, and that the Americans manager, Klinsmann, was the star that brought the Germans their last World Cup title and managed the German selection in 2006. Add that Germany has been even better since Joachim Low-- Klinsmann's top assistant in 2006-- has taken over as manager and United States vs Germany seems like quite an intriguing match up to close out group play.
Predicted Order of Finish:
1. Germany 7 pts
2. United States 5 pts
3. Portugal 2 pts
4. Ghana 1 pt