Die Mannschaft – world heavyweight and tournament favorite. With the exception of Brazil and Argentina, no other national team comes into the World Cup on the back of more pressure and expectations than Joachim Low’s side. Blessed with (on paper at least) one of the most talented German sides from top to bottom that I personally have seen in quite sometime, this is a make or break summer for the boys from Berlin. Success will be met with joy and elation, while failure will not be tolerated.
Cristiano Ronaldo, now fit and ready to unleash himself in South America, leads a Portugal side that are vastly under-rated, with so many deeming them a one man operation. Despite it being against Ireland, their recent 5-1 warm-up victory showcased many players in the XI that are capable of threatening. They may not be one of the big boys in this tournament, but this is a team that will kill you if you give them any opportunity.
With Group G’s two most expectant sides facing off against each other first, it will certainly lay the framework for the rest of the group stage in the group of death. Will Germany’s ability and depth prove yet again why they are at the top of the European food chain? Will Portugal and Ronaldo look at past blue-prints and counter attack Germany in ruthless fashion? Here is our preview and predictions.
Projected Starting XI’s
Germany: Manuel Neuer; Erik Durm, Mats Hummels, Per Mertesacker, Kevin Grosskreutz; Philipp Lahm, Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger; Lukas Podolski, Thomas Muller, Andre Schurrle
Portugal: Rui Patricio; Fabio Coentrao, Pepe, Bruno Alves, Joao Pereira; William Carvalho, Raul Meireles, Joao Moutinho; Cristiano Ronaldo, Hugo Almeida, Silvestre Varela
Key’s for Germany:
– First and foremost, they must be aware of the space that will potentially be left behind when their wing-backs come into the play. Ronaldo and Varela have so much pace to kill the Germans on the flanks if they are not careful.
– They must dominate the midfield, and be sure to keep Joao Moutinho in their back pocket for the entire match. He can create in the final third and from Portugal’s half of the pitch – any extended period of time on the ball for him and it will be hard times for Germany.
– With their rumored new system, Germany must keep their front three players constantly rotating up top to try to draw out both Pepe and Bruno Alves from their shape. Coentrao and Pereira love to get forward as well, so that will help the Germans find space to interchange.
Key’s for Portugal:
– Look to break into space on the flanks at any given moment. As we saw when Bayern Munich were so ruthlessly exploited on the counter attack for that same reason, Portugal only need to copy that blueprint to give themselves added chance of gaining a positive result.
– The deeper midfield pair of Carvalho and Meireles must do everything they can to control the midfield so that Moutinho is allowed to dictate proceedings. As we saw yesterday with Pirlo against England, he was given time and protection to operate and it was to their benefit – Portugal must do the same for the AS Monaco man.
– Do not give Germany too many dead-ball situations. Apart from Pepe, Alves and Almeida, Portugal have a big disadvantage in height when it comes to the Germans. To make matters worse, no one has scored more headers at the World Cup in total than Germany – do not give them an excuse to continue that trend.
– Philipp Lahm v Joao Moutinho – The right-back turned defensive midfielder was the best in the world at his former position, but he has become rather accomplished centrally. His awareness, ability to man-mark and his work rate must all be used to maximum efficiency to keep Moutinho quiet for 90minutes.
– Kevin Grosskreutz v Cristiano Ronaldo – Grosskreutz splits his time between right-back, midfield and forward for Dortmund. It may very well end up being Benedikt Howedes here instead of him, but the battle remains the same; keep track of Ronaldo, do not give him space and do not let him come in on his right foot, other wise you are dead.
– Thomas Muller v Pepe – Muller is so good at popping up in key areas around the final third, and that movement must be used to put Pepe off. With the German front three being completely interchangeable, any space in the final third that Muller can find will cause nightmares for Portugal, as he is so deadly in and around the box.
Staff match predictions
Drew: Part of me feels this may end in a draw, as both teams will not want to lose their first match and then go all out against Ghana and the United states. But as we have seen thus far, this World Cup is full of goals and this one won’t be any different. Despite their defensive solidarity, Portugal will nip a few. Portugal’s weakness however in the long term is their defense, so I think the Germans will pick them apart there. 3-2 Germany is my thoughts on the matter.
Young: I will agree with Drew here, and go with 3-2 Germany. Portugal could well take an early lead off a the combination play of Joao Moutinho and Cristiano Ronaldo, but ultimately Germany will prevail. They have superior midfield play, fantastic forward players and Thomas’ Muller’s goal scoring prowess. He won the Golden Boot in 2010, so do not be surprised if he bags at least one in this fixture.
Charles: Germany has enough man power (Podolski, Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Klose, etc.) to score at least three goals either on the counter attack or through continual possession of the ball. While I am sure Ronaldo will score at least one for Portugal (because, he’s Ronaldo), I will go with Germany 4-1. A bold prediction, but they are here to make a statement, and they have the personnel to do it.