Alex McInnes’ previews of the World Cup reach Group G, featuring Ghana, USA, Portgual and Germany.
Three time champions, ‘Die Nationalmannschaft’ will be making their 17th appearance at a World Cup Finals, second only to the host Brazil being the record appearance holders to date. This is a very exciting team playing in one of the more exciting groups and I’m expecting big things from the Germans. They breezed through qualification winning nine and drawing one out of a ten game series, finishing 8 points clear of second placed Sweden, who went on to lose to Germany’s Group G opponents Portugal in the playoffs. There has always been the stereotype that German football teams are organised and functional but this current breed of players are much different. After impressing with their youth, flair and counter attacking at South Africa 2010 and then again at Euro 2012, it is time for these young guns to rise to the top, and I really feel they can do it. Obviously they have such talent in their squad but I have an inkling that Pep Guardiola being manager of Bayern may have a filter effect of the national team, much as he did on the Spanish national team whilst in charge of Barcelona. Still managed by Joachim Löw after 8 years of continuity and growth and captained by the influential, if diminutive, Philipp Lahm, Germany should win this group with relative ease and progress to the latter stages of the competition. I’m sure the three other teams will have something to say about that but will stick with that prediction. From there it’s really down to a lot of luck but I certainly feel the Germans have a squad capable of Brazilian glory. Much has been made of the lack of strikers in the final squad, the only recognised out and out striker being record goalscorer Miroslav Klose, but there are other players who can also lead the line, players in the shape of Thomas Müller, Lukas Podolski and Chelsea’s André Schürrle. Germany really are solid throughout and it’s pretty scary when you actually look at the squad; Manuel Neuer, Mats Hummels, Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mesut Özil, Toni Kroos, Mario Götze and Julian Draxler. Frighteningly talented.
Despite only qualifying for the 2014 World Cup after an epic Ronaldo vs. Zlatan playoff, I have a feeling that Portugal could do fairly well this summer. ‘A Selecção’ have always had very talented teams and players over the years but have never really hit their potential, their best World Cup finishes being third place at their maiden appearance at the famous 1966 tournament in England and then at Germany 2006 they finished fourth, but that’s as good as it has got to date. It feels almost lazy of me to write about Cristiano Ronaldo but here is an athlete in the prime of his life and to me it seems only fitting that a player of his calibre wins a top international tournament during his playing career. Right now he will be riding on the crest of a wave after Real Madrid’s Champions League victory in May but it appears all is not well. Lots of reports are suggesting that Ronaldo is suffering with tendinosis in his left knee and is struggling for full fitness so a lot will depend on the fitness of Portugal’s key man. They have a string of good players but only one exceptional player and his possible absence could open up the door for Ghana or the USA to progress to the knockout stages. Keep an eye on goalkeeper Rui Patricio, Pepe, Manchester United target William Carvalho, João Moutinho of AS Monaco, Raul Meireles, the much maligned Nani and of course, Cristiano Ronaldo.
The ‘Black Stars’ really impressed a lot of people at the last World Cup, reaching the quarter finals and it could well have been the semis, no thanks to the flesh hungry Luis Suarez. This will be only their third appearance at a World Cup but Ghana are a team that I always find very exciting to watch and they are a team that I always want to see do well. Ghana progressed to the final third round stage of CAF qualifying, comprehensively beating Egypt 7-3 on aggregate, which is no mean feat at all. A lot really depends on Ronaldo’s fitness and form for Portugal but if he is missing or misfiring then as previously mentioned, the door can open up for either Ghana or the USA to progress from the group and out of the two I feel Ghana have more quality and experience to do so, should the opportunity arise. Currently managed by Kwesi Appiah, they are also coached by national legends Samuel Kuffour, Stephen Appiah and ex-Leeds United hero, Tony Yeboah. Captained by part time rapper and full time money grabber ‘Baby Jet’ aka Asamoah Gyan, the main player for the Black Stars come in the shape of Samuel Inkoom, Daniel Opare, Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Juventus’ Kwadwo Asamoah and the Marseille brothers Ayew, Jordan and Andre. The typically African spirit that Ghana bring to the tournaments is what makes World Cups a great affair for spectators.
Baffling. That’s how I would describe Coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s decision to omit USMNT’s iconic, and probably still best footballer, Landon Donovan from the final World Cup squad. He may have been lacking slightly in fitness but just having him there would have helped their chances a lot. He may talk like Mickey Mouse but he is clearly a national treasure and influential figure on and amongst the rest of the USA squad. This will be USA’s tenth World Cup Finals appearance with their best ever finish coming at the inaugural Uruguayan tournament in 1930, reaching the semi finals. They reached this years competition after progressing to the CONCACAF Fourth Round, finishing top, four points above Costa Rica. In all honesty I don’t think ‘The Stars and Stripes’ have enough quality in their team to create the balance that could seem them through. There are some good players who play for good clubs throughout Europe but the guys who play in the MLS, a league that is no doubt growing and getting better, don’t face strong enough competition week in week out to be able to adapt to the top international teams. The main guys for he US will be Everton’s Tim Howard, Omar Gonzalez, Michael Bradley, son of former USNMT coach Bob, Kyle Beckerman, Captain Clint Dempsey now at Seattle Sounders and dare I say it, Sunderland flop Jozy Altidore.