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World Cup Preview Group G: Germany, Portugal navigate the U.S., Ghana minefield

Jun 10, 2014, 7:02 PM EDT

USMNT Getty Images

Group B has the power, Group D has the balance, but Group G has its own claim to being the 2014 World Cup’s group of death:

  • In every World Cup Germany’s entered, they’ve made it to the final eight;
  • Portugal has one of the world’s two best players (Cristiano Ronaldo) and took Spain to penalty kicks in the semifinals of the last European championship;
  • A United States team that made the Round of 16 two years ago improved its qualifying performance while forging a more resourceful squad;
  • Ghana has more viable attacking options than the team that made the final eight in South Africa.

The argument against this being the Group of Death: There’s a pretty big drop off after the quartet’s top two, a drop you don’t see in Groups B and D. Ultimately, if there are no upsets, two teams that may not be among the best 16 in the world won’t make it to the second round. Your website of choice probably won’t break out the big typeface if the U.S. and Ghana go home.

That’s not a Group of Death, but it is a group of depth – a packet that could provide drama, particularly if Portugal isn’t at full strength when they face Germany on June 16.

Let’s take another look at Group G (click on country name for full preview)

Germany: The loss of a player like Marco Reus would be debilitating for most World Cup qualifiers, but Germany’s depth in attack means the Nationalmannschaft is unlikely to feel that pain until the later rounds. In this group, an ability to control the midfield may prove too much to over come in games two and three, while the 2010 semifinalists are capable of out-gunning Portugal in the opener.

Portugal: Tendinosis may not completely derail Cristiano Ronaldo’s World Cup, but there’s a chance the Portugal star will be hampered throughout the tournament. If he can’t be his normal, explosive self, it will be up to midfielder Joao Moutinho to get the best out of the Selccao’s other attacking options.

Ghana: A deep array of attacking talent is capable of overcoming the team’s typical problems. At the back, the Black Stars’ weakness in goal can be heightened by a lack of poise from their back four. Under the pressure their group mates can bring, Ghana’s back five will have to find a new level.

United States: While the team does not look glamorous on paper, a convincing run through CONCACAF qualifying hints the squad may be more capable than it was four years ago. With Jurgen Klinsmann at the helm, the U.S. has been able to leverage its new approach to forge its physical capabilities with tactical flexibility. They’re the team most likely to make meaningful tweaks from game to game.

Who’s going through: Germany, clearly. Portugal is the next most likely, but health could become a major concern. The U.S. is being scoffed at by the typical detractors, but they’re more adaptable than they’ve been at previous tournaments. Ghana is the team least likely, but even they’re capable of springing the upsets that would carry them through.

Who’s going home: Most likely, the U.S. and Ghana. Portugal could replace one of them, while it would be an utter shot of Joachim Löw’s side was tripped up twice in three matches.

Top players to watch:

5. João Bradley … errr, Michael Moutinho – you know, that central midfielder from the United States of Portugal? (Reality: Moutinho and the U.S.’s Michael Bradley will each play crucial roles or their teams.)

4. Mario Götze, Germany

3. Thomas Müller, Germany

2. Phillip Lahm, Germany

2. Marco Reus, Germany

1. Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal

  1. rphillish - Jun 11, 2014 at 1:25 AM

    I’m calling it now. The US will lose it’s first match to Ghana, and the US Soccer world will implode. Everyone will panic. There will be calls for Klinnsman’s head. The name Landon Donavan will be shouted from every corner, and German-American players will be accused of tainting the locker room. Then the US will win against both Portugal and Germany, make it out of the group, and everyone will forget the hysterics of the first match.

    • mikeevergreen - Jun 11, 2014 at 10:15 AM

      The haters are out in force.

  2. CowboyErik - Jun 11, 2014 at 2:30 AM

    unfortunately what your saying rp is the most likely and plausable scenario but not the only one, gotta keep fingers crossed

  3. jucam1 - Jun 11, 2014 at 11:25 AM

    No shot at getting out of this group. This experience will be tremendous for 18′ when JK has repeatedly stated that his team will be ready to compete with the big boys.

  4. mikeevergreen - Jun 11, 2014 at 12:14 PM

    The US is used to heat and humidity. So is Ghana. However, none of the other three have cobatted the combination of heat, humidity, and long travel distances/time like the US has.

    Laugh now, but don’t be surprised if BOTH Germany and Portugal go home early. In 2002, both Portugal and Poland were supposed to run the US and South Korea out. We all saw what happened with that one.

    • jwbiii - Jun 11, 2014 at 8:26 PM

      Forget the heat and humidity. Highs for both are expected to be in the 70s for the next week. Fine weather for for running around on a pitch.

  5. tridecagon - Jun 11, 2014 at 3:50 PM

    Nate Silver figures the odds on the US getting out of the group at 36%. That seems about right to me – we’re a long shot, but by no means a Cinderella. This is top to bottom the best group at the tournament, and making it to the knockout round would be a real achievement.

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