Soccer: Friendly-USA vs Nigeria

2014 World Cup: Group G Preview

Welcome to the Group of Death.  This is the group that everyone dreaded during the draw last December.  Unfortunately, these four teams were the unlucky ones to get drawn into the Group of Death but all four teams have been meeting the Group of Death head on in their own unique ways.

Germany, the consensus favorite to get into the knockout stage, has been business as usual with the exception of Marco Reus, who tore ligaments in his ankle during Friday’s friendly against Armenia.  Portugal has been resting their injured players in Cristiano Ronaldo, Raul Miereles and Pepe in hopes of giving them a precautionary rest to keep them as healthy as possible for the World Cup.  The United States and Jurgen Klinsmann has been constantly tweaking the roster and starting lineup in order to put the best possible team together for the group stage.  Ghana, the sleeper of the group, is making waves due to a witch doctor taking credit to causing the injuries of some of the worlds best.

This group will be hard fought and don’t expect to see some “beautiful” soccer.  This group will consist of four teams having to go through a battle to just survive the Group of Death.  Let’s get right down to business with the preview.

Group G Teams (32 Flags Pre-Tournament Power Ranking):

Germany (No. 4), Portugal (No. 12), United States (No. 21), Ghana (No. 24)

Player to Watch in Group G: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

Cristiano Ronaldo is a different player when he’s in a Portugal jersey.  He is phenomenal in a Real Madrid jersey and is the current Ballon d’Or winner but he has seemed to struggle in the World Cup when he’s playing for his country.  In his two World Cups in 2006 and 2010, Ronaldo has scored just a single goal in the World Cup and that was in a 7-0 defeat of North Korea in 2010.  Since the World Cup, Ronaldo exploded in Euro 2012 with seven goals so, which Ronaldo are we going to get?  Either way, Ronaldo’s presence on the field means teams must game plan around him and that’s what makes him so dangerous.

X-Factor in Group G: The Ghanaian Witch Doctor

Nana Kwaku Bonsam claims he is the one who has been injuring Cristiano Ronaldo in hopes to prevent him from participating in the World Cup.  Ronaldo has been suffering from knee tendonosis and thigh muscle issues and it has been keeping him off the field during the pre World Cup friendlies.  Obviously Ronaldo’s injuries have been caused by play on the field rather than a Witch Doctor in Ghana using dogs to bring up a spirit to keep Ronaldo off but Ghana is labeled as the worst of the four teams in the group so Ghana, in essence, have nothing to lose.  If I’m Ghana, I would take any help I could get.

Odds of Winning World Cup (courtesy VegasInsider.com):

Germany: 5/1
Portugal: 30/1
United States: 200/1
Ghana: 240/1

Most Important Game: Portugal vs. United States

The winner of this game will move on to the knockout stage.  Germany is sure to get the top spot and Ghana will likely get 4th with an outside shot at 3rd.  When the draw took place and the schedule was revealed, many people circled this game because of where it will be played.  Manaus is in the middle of the rain forest and this game will likely be one of the hottest and most humid games both teams will face in their careers.  While many USA fans saw playing in Manaus as a disadvantage, I say to use it as an advantage and use the location to beat Portugal and leap frog them to get into the knockout stage.

Jurgen Klinsmann knows the United States cannot beat Portugal based on pure talent, they just can’t.  So Klinsmann has to find another way to beat Portugal and that is with fitness.  Fitness will be more important in Manaus than talent and the team that is most fit will have the advantage.  Klinsmann went young and went with players who could give him a full 90.  While this hasn’t been discussed, playing in hot and humid conditions had to have crept into Jurgen’s mind when he decided to keep Landon Donovan off the squad.

Now I’m not saying Portugal is full of lazy and out of shape players.  They obviously are very fit too; they wouldn’t be professional soccer players playing in the biggest tournament in the world if they weren’t.  The issue is that everyone on the Portuguese national team has played a full season worth of games (barring injuries) and haven’t had any sort of break since last summer.  The US has almost half the team from MLS and they at least got a week or two to rest in the winter before going to US national team camp.  That seems very insignificant but it’s huge.  It’s like when European teams come to the US to play in friendlies against MLS teams.  The MLS team isn’t as talented as the European team but they are more used to the hot weather conditions in a summer in the United States and are in mid season form instead of the European team who just got over playing a full season.  Sometimes the MLS team can beat the European team based on that and the United States can and will do the same against Portugal in the rain forest of Manaus.

Teams to Move On: Germany and United States

Phillip Bupp

About Phillip Bupp

Managing editor for 32 Flags as well as a writer for Total-MLS covering Sporting Kansas City. Look for Phillip on the Total-MLS Roundtable and feel free to follow @phillipbupp and @MLSTitleBelt, a project where the title holder must defend the title in every MLS game.

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