World Cup Group G report card: Germany, Ghana, Portugal, USA
Every World Cup has a Group of Death, and this year’s tournament is no different. Group G is the group that everyone wanted to avoid.
Even though Group D is the toughest group at this World Cup on the basis of the average rankings, most will tell you Germany, Ghana, Portugal and the US form the most daunting group in Brazil this summer.
Germany were favourites to finish top, with Portugal expected to put a fight for the number one spot before settling for second place.
But Ghana and the USA have the quality to upset the presumed order, with both sides making the last 16 at the 2010 World Cup.
And the opening round of fixtures didn’t disappoint, with Germany thrashing Portugal 4-0 and the USA snatching a late winner against Ghana to record a 2-1 victory.
Here is a review of Group G’s opening games:
Despite their status as third favourites doubts over Germany’s World Cup credentials persisted. Injuries have decimated Joachim Low’s side, with Marco Reus, Ilkay Gundogan and Holger Badstuber all sidelined for the tournament through injury, with midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira struggling for full fitness.
But those concerns were put to one side by the 4-0 thumping of Portugal in their opening game. Thomas Muller took his World Cup tally to eight goals from seven games, bagging a hat-trick against ten-men, with Pepe shown a first-half red for a headbutt.
As they have so often in the past, Germany have made a strong start. The challenge now is to maintain that into the later stages of the tournament.
Ghana came within a Luis Suarez’s handball of becoming the first African side to reach the World Cup semi-finals in 2010, and given their opening game defeat to the USA it appears Kwesi Appiah’s side will have to wait at least another four years for a crack at the knockout rounds.
Despite dominating large spells of their game against the Americans, Ghana fell victim to lapses in concentration at both the start and the end of the contest. They fell behind after just 31 seconds, and conceded a late goal with just four minutes left to play. For the other 85 minutes of the game they looked in control.
Now they face a tough task to even finish third, with daunting fixtures against Germany and Portugal to come in quick succession.
If Paulo Bento’s side were to challenge Germany for top spot in Group G and qualify for the last 16 most accepted Cristiano Ronaldo would need to finally make his mark on a World Cup. Just one game in, that plan is in tatters.
Ronaldo almost single-handedly dragged Portugal to the World Cup, scoring four goals over the two-legged playoff against Sweden. But the Real Madrid winger has been struggling with tendonitis in his right knee for months, with one doctor warning that should he play through this pain he could be risking his career.
The 29-year-old had to wait until the dying moments of Portugal’s opening game against Germany for a shot on target, but by that point the game had been well and truly lost. Pepe had already sold out his teammates with a moment of madness (not like him) and four goals had already been stuck past the shaky Rui Patricio.
If Portugal can pick up results in their final two group games against the USA and Ghana they will most likely progress into the second round, but a more coherent and considered approach is needed.
Jurgen Klinsmann knew how important the USA’s first game against Ghana was. He called it a cup-final, on the basis that anything less than a win would have effectively knocked them out of the World Cup. And with just four minutes left on the clock it looked like they would indeed get something less than a win.
But then substitute John Brooks popped up with a late winner, prompting one of the most memorable goal celebrations in recent World Cup history. Yet this was only one game and three points. The US will need at least another point from games against Portugal and Germany if they are to make the last 16.
Klinsmann has much to consider ahead of their next fixture. Despite taking the lead after just 31 seconds (making it the fifth fastest goal in World Cup history) the US lost their grip of the game quickly, with Michael Bradley enduring his worst performance in a national team shirt at the most inopportune of times. They have made a good start, but Portugal represents a significant step-up in quality.