It seems that Group G is another sort of ‘group of death’, which means people see more than two teams that can qualify. Obviously, the big favorites are Germany and Portugal, although it won’t be too much of a shock to see either Ghana or the United States slip past A Selecção.
Germany might have the best squad on paper going into the world cup, even if Marco Reus isn’t playing. Cristiano Ronaldo is headlining a Portugal team that almost didn’t make it to the tournament, and has a lot less expectations of it compared to what their star is used to handle.
It’s hard to find a team that has possibly the best goalkeeper in the world, a defense filled with talented full backs and trustworthy centre backs, a striker who can break the record for most goals in the World Cup and an attacking midfield that’s bursting with young, fantastic talent, even if Marco Reus isn’t coming. Joachim Low has been criticized for taking only one striker with him to Brazil, but in a system that’s all about what the players from behind the forward do, maybe it doesn’t matter.
Mario Gotze, Mesut Ozil and a bit of Julian Draxler provide the brilliance from behind Klose and probably Thomas Muller, who usually plays on the right side of the attack in Germany’s matches, although there isn’t a position up front he can’t fit in. The defense might be the biggest concern, because Germany have only Bastian Schweinsteiger as top notch defensive midfielder, while the combination of Mats Hummels and Per Mertesacker isn’t impregnable.
Despite having someone like Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal aren’t looked at as serious contenders. They’re too defensive for most, playing with 2.5 centre backs as Pepe often plays like an inbetweener of defense and midfield, while their strikers, which include Helder Postiga, Eder and Hugo Almeida don’t strike fear in the heart of anyone. However, Ronaldo can make up for that as we all know.
However, Ronaldo plays in the middle for Portugal, a position that might satisfy his ego, but doesn’t suit his talents. Nani just had an awful season in which he barely played, and the midfield often disappoints in its ability to dictate the pace of a match and help out defensively, because Portugal have two full backs who love to attack but often forget about heading back. Starting the tournament with a loss against Germany might complicate things.
Once again drawn with Germany in the same group, Ghana head into this World Cup as a team no one takes lightly after making the round of 16 twice in a row, and being one penalty away from the semifinals four years ago. Andre Ayew, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Asamoah Gyan and Kwadwo Asamoah, who gets a more attacking role compared to his Juventus part, make a very impressive front four.
As with most African teams, the problems might be defensively. Michael Essien isn’t the player he once was and Muntari might be a bit too eager to join the offense at times. Ghana have a very young defense that is quick and fast, but sometimes makes mistakes that don’t really seem characteristic of a side that sees itself as not just a rising power in world football but someone who is here to stay.
Jurgen Klinsmann is doing everything in his power to lower the expectations, talking more about what he expects from the 2018 side than the one he has right now. No Landon Donovan, but he does have the experienced Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley to rely on, while Aron Jóhannsson and Jozy Altidore will also be expected to bring goals for them.
And goals might be a problem from a good and solid side that doesn’t have spark and creativity in abundance. The trio of Graham Zusi, Alejandro Bedoya and Jermaine Jones might be important tactically with their discipline and fitness, but scoring or even setting up others for goals isn’t their strong suit. No match – even for Germany or Portugal, is going to be easy against the Americans, but it’s hard seeing them go through without goals. However, that 2002 side didn’t have anyone expecting anything from them as well.