World Cup Group G Preview
Picking the qualifiers for Group G might not be as easy as it first appears. Most would plump for Germany and Portugal in a heartbeat, but the USA are always stubborn and capable opposition, while Ghana were quarter~finalists last time around. If Germany or Portugal don’t bring their ‘A games’ to the World Cup, then expect the group to open up.
After storming their way through World Cup qualification Joachim Low’s men will be feeling confident ahead of Brazil 2014, and with arguably the best squad in the group, who can blame them? A recent 6-1 win over Armenia in a friendly summarised Germany; although they looked unspectacular for the first half they soon switched through the gears and saw off their opponents. Their attacking quality was also evident as they topped their qualification group – scoring 36 goals in the process.
The team have faced recent disappointment following injury to Borussia Dortmund’s brilliant Marco Reus and have a few other injury niggles, but they still have a whole host of young talent to blend in with the older players in the squad. The likes of Mario Götze, Julian Draxler and Andre Schurrle will bring a new dimension to the side, inspired by the experience of Lahm and Schweinsteiger among many others. With a big pool of talent to choose from as the Bundesliga continues to show its quality, it just further supports the cliché that you should never underestimate the Germans.
Germany tend to do well at the World Cup and have impressively won it three times – though the last was in 1990. In 2010, they reached the semi-finals of the competition after thrashing Argentina 4-0 in the quarter finals, only to be edged out by Spain. This time around they have as much of a chance as any of the European sides of achieving good things in the World Cup and will be there or thereabouts.
Ghana were one of the surprise packages at the last World Cup with Asamoah Gyan playing a starring role and their squad for this campaign could easily impress again after they thrashed Egypt 7-3 on aggregate to confirm their place in their third World Cup.
Losing on penalties in South Africa to Uruguay was harsh on the Black Stars and they missed out on becoming the first African side to reach the semi-finals of a World Cup. This time around they could again be underestimated by the big names around them in their group, but their squad also boasts some top players.
While their defence might be an area of concern for coach Kwesi Appiah, the Ghanaian midfield looks formidable, including several players with big game experience – Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari, Kwadwo Asamoah will all be featuring in Brazil. Their attacking force will include the likes of ex-Sunderland striker Asamoah Gyan and Kevin-Prince Boateng.
A good showing in their first game with the USA maybe vital in terms of installing the believe needed to get out of this tricky group.
In the World Cup qualification battle between Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic, the Portuguese reigned supreme – thanks to an excellent display from the Real Madrid forward, who scored four goals against Sweden.
Portugal have faired reasonably well at recent tournaments, but have twice been knocked out near the closing stages by Spain in the past few years (World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012). They are rarely considered amongst the major favourites for the World Cup but they will be expected to do well, especially given the squad at their disposal. Their golden generation may have just about expired, but their team is still littered with several top European talents such as midfielders Joao Moutinho and William Carvalho, as well as members of the Champions League winners in their defensive ranks – Fabio Coentrao and Pepe.
The US national team reflects the growing popularity of soccer in the States as several decent players are starting to crop up in Klinsmann’s side. It came as a surprise to many that the veteran Landon Donovan was dropped but the likes of Dempsey and Altidore (who impressed in a recent friendly against Nigeria) will lead the US attack.
The side contains several MLS players who are largely unknown to European football fans, but there’s familiar faces from the Premier League in the squad, as well as players from the Bundesliga (John Brooks, Timmy Chandler and Fabian Johnson). Even the World Cup’s most talented stars will struggle to get past Everton’s Tim Howard in goal, and the USA even have our very own Brad Guzan on standby though he usually plays second fiddle (hmph). There might still be a fair way to go for the team in terms of real international quality, but they will provide a tough challenge for any of their group rivals.
Also, keep an eye out for Julian Green, although many won’t have heard of him, Bayern Munich’s 19-year-old winger recently made an appearance in the Champion’s League and could just be the next big thing in the Bundesliga and for the US national team.
Predicted top scorer
With the injury to Reus and the uncertainty of who will lead the line in his place for the Germans means the safe money will be on Christano Ronaldo to top the scoring for the group. The bigger question though is will the 36-year-old Miroslav Klose get a chance for Germany to score his 15th World Cup goal to equal Brazilian Ronaldo’s record? And maybe even go on to surpass it?
Who will qualify?
Group G could get complicated for the losers of the opening clash between the two favourites Germany and Portugal. The loser would be under heavy pressure in their next game – and if either Ghana or the United States then stepped up in the corresponding following game, it could be curtains for one of the favourites. Despite this, I believe Germany and Portugal will qualify, with the Germans topping the group.
Ex-player connections with each country would include former Villa Portuguese right-back Fernando Nelson, Ghanaian and German midfielders Nii Lamptey and Thomas Hitzlsperger, plus more recently departed United States utility player Eric Lichaj.
In terms of future Villa connections, under-fire boss Lambert will be watching Germany with interest as several players from his old club Borussia Dortmund made the trip to Brazil. Unfortunately he hasn’t been able to use his German connection to much advantage, having not dabbled in the Bundesliga’s transfer market yet.
In the meantime, good luck to Brad Guzan for the USA. Lets hope he sees some action in Brazil.
Follow MOMS on Twitter – @oldmansaid
Follow Lewis on Twitter – @rymondfootball