How they got to
Germany- First place finish in UEFA Group C
Die Mannschaft's only hiccup during qualifying was a 4-4 draw against Sweden. Currently ranked 2nd in the FIFA rankings, Germany is 60-19-20 all-time in the World Cup with three trophies (all as West Germany).
- Second-place finish in UEFA Group F. Advanced 4-2 on aggregate against Sweden in UEFA playoff.
Portugal was pretty uneven in qualifying but dug out of an early hole to finish 2nd comfortably, and ultimately advanced against Sweden. Currently ranked 4th in the FIFA rankings, Portugal is 12-3-8 all-time in the World Cup with a best finish of 3rd in 1966.
- First place finish in the CONCACAF hexagonal
The US qualified with 2 games to spare in qualifying, and finished off the campaign by saving Mexico's bacon with a 3-2 win in Panama. Currently 13th in the FIFA rankings, The US is 7-5-17 all-time in the World Cup with a best finish of 3rd in 1930.
Egypt in the CAF third round- Defeated
Ghana cruised through the 2nd round of CAF qualifying and relegated Bob Bradley to the Tippeligan after thrashing his Egyptian side 7-3 on aggregate. Currently 38th in the FIFA rankings, Ghana is 4-2-3 all-time in the World Cup finishing as quarter-finalists in 2010 for their best finish ever.
Schedule of Games
|June 16 | 12 PM||Germany||Portugal||Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador|
|June 16 | 6 PM||USA||Ghana||Arena das Dunas, Natal|
|June 21 | 3 PM||Germany||Ghana||Estádio Castelão, Fortaleza|
|June 22 | 6 PM||Portugal||USA||Arena Amazônia, Manaus|
|June 26 | 12 PM||USA||Germany||Arena Pernambuco, Recife|
|June 26 | 12 PM||Portugal||Ghana||Estádio Mané Garrincha, Brasília|
Key Players in the Group
Cristiano Ronaldo, F, Portugal - What to say about Mr. Ronaldo. Women want him. Men want to be him. Arguably the best player in the world these days, he just wrapped a season that culminated in a 2nd Champions League medal as a pro. That said, he's never really thrived in tournament play outside of the European continent. In 10 World Cup matches, he's scored a total of 2 goals against juggernauts Angola and North Korea. He's also dealing with a knee condition that is at high-risk to cause further injury until he's shut down. At 29, there's a chance he's playing for his legacy in this edition of the World Cup.
Kevin Prince-Boateng, M, Ghana - The US isn't the only refuge for German dual nationals. The Berlin-born Prince-Boateng scored the opener in the last USA-Ghana tilt in the World Cup, and his move to Schalke saw Jermaine Jones become surplus to the German outfit. A prime athlete with superb skill, he will be crucial as the link from defense to the attack as well as providing protection to a back line thought to be the weak link in The Black Stars team.
Phillip Lahm, D/M, Germany - With arguably the greatest collection of individual talent in the tournament, I am going with the leader of Die Mannschaft. 'The Magic Dwarf' has recently moved to a holding midfield role for the Germans having played there for Bayern Munich. His ability to control the midfield despite his size allows fluidity in the German attack that will leave opposing defenses grasping for breath. Commonly lauded for his top shelf intelligence, he too will be looking to complement a loaded domestic trophy case with some silver from an international tournament.
Michael Bradley, M, USA - Il Generale has come a long way since hearing errant calls of nepotism in his early days with the USMNT. Now in addition to being a box-to-box engine with endless motor, Bradley has become the main play-maker for the US in the middle of the park. His ability in switching the team from defense to attack will determine whether the Americans have enough of to emerge as dark horses from Group G.
Game of the Group
USA vs Germany - Hard to pick one with 4 quality teams playing 6 matches, but the US will almost assuredly be playing for advancement in this match needing at least a draw. Although they will be facing on paper the 3rd in an increasingly difficult progression of opponents, they will do so during the hottest part of the day, which brings me to the...
X-Factor in Group G
The Heat - Group G will play out in Salvador, Natal, Fortaleza, Manaus, Recife, and Brasilia. With the exception of the Ghana-Portugal match, all game time temperatures will almost assuredly be played at over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This should serve to balance the European might especially as the matches go beyond the 60 minute mark.
Final thoughts and Predictions
The Group of Death has been bemoaned since the draw. The US has been given little chance of advancing. Some have even predicted 0 points and the sport falling back into obscurity in the stated. As much as the United States got a tough draw, the end up in venues where they have a significant advantage over their European counterparts. I do not think Portugal will have the stomach for Manaus, and I think the Germans will struggle with a 3rd match in the heat when they face the Yanks in Salvador.
Call me a homer- the US is winning this group. Their preparation and makeup will help them conquer the oppressive climate and advance to the Round of 16. The Yanks training regimen meted out so ruthlessly by Herr Klinsmann combined with a lifetime (for most of the roster) growing up playing in hot American summers will give them the greatest overall edge in conditioning and will net them results against the European squads doomed by fatigue in the 2nd half. Portugal will be finished after 2 matches. I pick Germany to advance based on their overall squad strength and the ability to rotate their attackers, but do not be surprised if Ghana plays the role of dark horse and advance from the group as well.