The "Group of Death" is what every manager of the 32 World Cup teams has nightmares about leading up to draw day. Every tournament, a few years of hard work by the squads is dealt an immediate blow with bad luck. For 2014, it's the teams in Group G.
Germany, Portugal, Ghana and the United States were paired together by the draw, creating a group where no side is completely safe, although the European sides will be favored to advance. Let's examine how each side ranks based on the FIFA and ESPN SPI formulas.
|National Team||FIFA Rank||ESPN SPI Rank|
2014 World Cup
Here's a look at how the entire draw played out:
Here's how the knockout phase matchups will set up:
For Germany, which was viewed as one of the tournament's top contenders, the tough draw isn't enough to change that elite status. It does, however, make its path to a championship far more difficult, because getting through the group stage is not a lock.
Since the Mannschaft will open the World Cup against Portugal, there's a possibility they will drop that match and immediately find themselves in a hole. Playing from behind in a three-match group is always a challenge.
So that first match in Group G is not only going to be filled with plenty of star power, but it will also be a crucial 90 minutes for both highly rated European squads.
For some perspective, Paul Carr of ESPN passes along word that Germany still has a greater than 90 percent chance of advancing despite the difficult draw, according to SPI:
SPI odds to advance, Group G: Germany 91.8%, Portugal 40.2%, #USMNT 39.3%, Ghana 28.8%.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) December 6, 2013
Beyond the high level of competitiveness, Group G is also going to attract a lot of attention because it features Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese superstar almost single-handedly led his team to the World Cup with dominant performances against Sweden in the UEFA playoffs.
To succeed in Brazil, Ronaldo is going to need some help. The side certainly didn't get it from the draw, so it will be up to the likes of Hugo Almeida, Nani and Joao Moutinho to elevate their form so opponents can't focus simply on slowing down Ronaldo.
While the UEFA sides will enter as the favorites to advance, both the United States and Ghana are capable of altering that outlook.
The American squad is led by manager Jurgen Klinsmann, who's led both the German national team and Bayern Munich. He's going to understand what the Mannschaft want to do and at least give the U.S. side a bit of a confidence boost.
What combination will advance from Group G?
That said, the United States squad has enough talent to make a serious push to advance, regardless of that added storyline. Tim Howard has been playing really well as of late, and a hot goalkeeper is often a key ingredient for unexpected World Cup runs.
Add in Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, and Team USA isn't going to be an easy out.
Klinsmann talked about his team's fortunes after the draw ended, according to the Associated Press (via ESPN.com):
Obviously it's one of the most difficult groups in the whole draw, having Portugal with Cristiano Ronaldo and then Ghana, who has a history with the United States. It couldn't get any more difficult or any bigger. It's a real challenge. And we'll take it. We'll take it on, and hopefully we're going to surprise some people there.
Finally, Ghana is currently the lowest-ranked team in the group, but its recent World Cup success speaks for itself. The Black Stars have advanced to the knockout phase in each of the last two tournaments, including the quarterfinals four years ago.
It's a side that featured battle-tested players like Asamoah Gyan and Sulley Muntari, but also has its fair share of emerging stars like Kevin-Prince Boateng. So anybody writing them off completely is off-base.
In the end, it's that top-to-bottom competitiveness that makes Group G the toughest of them all. Group B (with Spain, Netherlands and Chile) could also make a strong case, but the presence of what should be an overmatched Australia side is the difference-maker. Group G doesn't have one of those teams.
Germany and Portugal will be favored. The United States and Ghana will try to surprise fans around the world. However it plays out, Group G should feature plenty of drama.