Group G Preview: German Machines Versus Ronaldo, Black Stars and a Foreign German

Though Group D is considered the group of death at the 2014 World Cup, Group G can lay claim as being arguably just as tough as Group D is courtesy of the presence of Germany, Portugal, Ghana and the United States in it.

Germany nonetheless are favourites to qualify from the group and their imposing squad featuring seven Bayern Munich players, four players from Borussia Dortmund and three from Arsenal is just a part of the reason.

Die Mannschaft head to Brazil aiming to reach a fourth consecutive World Cup semi-final, the best run of form by a nation at the World Cup since Brazil appeared in three consecutive finals between 1994 and 2002, winning two.

Germany however have won in just one of those three semi-final appearances, going on to win third place in 2006 and 2010 after losing in the 2002 final. And in the last three World Cups, the team that has managed to defeat Germany in the knock-out stage has gone on to win the World Cup.

Goes to show Germany have the pedigree to go all the way this time as well, and it would take some great effort to stop them. Although having failed to win the title despite the potential to do so adds a bit of pressure on Germany to win it in Brazil.

With that in mind, coach Joachim Löw’s main headache would be finding the right mix of players to start in each game such that leaving out a number of players – including forwards Mario Gomez, Stefan Kießling and Max Kruse – will not come back to haunt Germany.

But while Germany can afford to leave out as many players as the above trio and even Marco Reus due to injury, the rest of the Group G nations can only envy the wealth in talent and experience of the Germans and hope not to lose a main player before and especially during the campaign.

Most of all Portugal, that have been sweating over the fitness of reigning Ballon d’Or holder Cristiano Ronaldo, who only just resumed training with the the rest of his countrymen three days ago.

In his absence, Portugal have lacked a real bite in attack as evident in their warm-up matches, which sums up how much of an incredible player Ronaldo really is. That reliance however also makes glaring what Portugal’s weakness is, and it most likely would backfire at some point during the World Cup.

It would be a real upset if the backfire happens during the group stage but Ghana and the United States are suitable candidates to take advantage of Portugal if the opportunity arises.

Ghana became only the third African nation after Cameroun (1990) and Senegal (2002) to reach the last eight of the World Cup, and were minutes away from a historic semi-final place only for Asamoah Gyan to miss a penalty late in the match against Uruguay at the 2010 World Cup.

Four years on and Ghana are back at the mundial with that experience motivating them to put in a good display in Brazil and perhaps make it out of the group against the odds.

The physical aspect of the Ghana’s game would go some way to help achieving that seemingly unlikely goal and with players such as Kevin-Prince Boateng, the Ayew brothers, Michael Essien, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, Kwadwo Asamoah, Sulley Muntari, Christian Atsu and of course, Asamoah Gyan, the Black Stars are allowed to dream.

As are the United States, currently coached by coach Jürgen Klinsmann who guided his native Germany to third place at the 2006 World Cup in his first managerial post. Since then, Klinsmann has had a bittersweet stint at Bayern Munich between 2008 and 2009 before taking up the US managerial job in 2011.

Known for moulding youngsters into his teams and also for making team selections solely based on form, Klinsmann has received major criticism for leaving out the American’s most capped player Landon Donovan from the 2014 World Cup squad.

Placing his trust in Sunderland striker Jozy Altidore may seem misplaced, especially as Altidore had not scored a goal for club or countryin 2014 until his brace in the 2-1 win over Nigeria on Saturday, but Klinsmann has more times than not seen his odd choices pay off well for his teams.

And with the experience of goalkeeper Tim Howard, attacker Clint Dempsey and midfielders Kyle Beckerman, Jermaine Jones and the highly rated Michael Bradley at his disposal, Klinsmann can be cautiously confident of continuing his positive record with the US that has led to winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup and qualifying for this World Cup.

Interestingly for Klinsmann, when the US meet Germany in their final group matcn, he will come up against Löw who was his assistant at the 2006 World Cup when Klinsmann coached the Germans.

And interestingly for the Americans, they will meet Ghana for a third successive World Cup, with the previous two meetings each ending 2-1 in Ghana’s favour to knock the Americans out of both World Cups. Perhaps it would be third time lucky for the US?

Main Players to Watch

For Germany, it is more a case of who not to watch but if you insist on it, then Miroslav Klose is one to watch as the 36 year old aims to break Ronaldo’s record of 15 World Cup goals; Brazil’s Ronaldo that is. Nature’s inside joke ensures Mesut Özil will have eyes on him as well.

And after resisting the urge to name Cristiano Ronaldo as the only player from Portugal to watch, Sporting Lisbon midfielder William Carvalho is a highly rated youngster who could find himself signed up by a bigger club if he matches the hype at the World Cup.

Ghana’s Christian Atsu is a promising forward signed by Chelsea and a good display at Brazil would help him either break into the London club’s first team or attract a club of similar stature to come get him and give him more first team football.

And for the United States, Michael Bradley is the obvious choice. It is a mystery as to how he is only playing his club football at the MLS and not at a top club in Europe, though his father recently suggested that is due to his nationality.

A solid campaign in Brazil however ought to fix that notion for good.

Tough as the group seems, Germany remain clear favourites to go through. Portugal ought to be easy picks to make it through as well but a hamstring injury to the wrong player and Ghana or the United States could pounce.

Undoubtedly, this will be a competitive group.