Based on the way that the pots for the 2014 World Cup draw were broken down, it was fairly evident that multiple difficult groups would emerge. Perhaps none is tougher than Group G, however, which features Germany, Portugal, Ghana and the United States, as seen in this graphic courtesy of Bleacher Report:
Fans dread their team being placed in the "group of death" every four years, but fans of the aforementioned nations didn't escape the draw unscathed. According to the FIFA rankings, Group G contains the No. 2, No. 5, No. 14 and No. 24 teams in the world, so there will be no easy matches.
That much is illustrated by the odds each team has to advance. According to Paul Carr of ESPN, the Soccer Power Index views Germany as a near lock to move on to the knockout stage, but the other three teams will fight each other tooth and nail.
Per Greg Lalas of MLSSoccer.com, Group G boasts the best average FIFA ranking of any group in the tournament.
It remains to be seen how things will play out and what type of form these teams will be in since the World Cup in Brazil is still six months away. But here is a breakdown of each team in the group of death, along with analysis regarding their chances of advancing.
|Group G Schedule|
|Date||Home Team||Away Team|
|Monday, June 16||Germany||Portugal|
|Monday, June 16||Ghana||USA|
|Saturday, June 21||Germany||Ghana|
|Sunday, June 22||USA||Portugal|
|Thursday, June 26||Portugal||Ghana|
|Thursday, June 26||USA||Germany|
Thanks in large part to their contingent of players who were part of Bayern Munich's treble-winning team last season, Germany are unquestionably among the top contenders to win the World Cup.
Although they haven't won the World Cup since 1990, Germany have reigned supreme on three occasions, so they have a history of success. That, along with their pure talent, makes Mannschaft the clear favorites to win the World Cup's toughest group.
Although Germany have struggled in terms of winning international competitions, they are currently in excellent form. Offensively, there aren't many teams that can hold a candle to them. With the likes of Mesut Ozil, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Muller, Mario Gomez, Lukas Podolski and a host of others, it can be argued that they have the most goal-scoring depth in the tournament. That much is supported by the fact that they led all of Europe in scoring during qualifying, according to the FA.
Germany's excellence doesn't end there, though.
The German side also has a fantastic back line anchored by Philipp Lahm. Add in the likes of Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng and co., and it is clear that Germany can even play a defensive style if it so chooses. Germany may also have the best goalkeeper in the world in the form of Manuel Neuer, so there is no discernible weakness present.
Germany won't be able to sleepwalk through this group, but it would be a shock if it didn't advance.
When it came time to draw teams from Pot 4, Germany, Ghana and the United States were all hoping for a break. Only Portugal and Russia remained, and while Russia isn't a bad team by any means, it lacks true star power. Unfortunately for the other Group G squads, the draw didn't go their way as Portugal's name was drawn. Portugal had to win a playoff in order to qualify for the World Cup, but they are clearly a dangerous team that nobody wants to go up against.
It is no secret that the primary reason for that is Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo. For those who don't believe Argentina's Lionel Messi is the best player in the world, they probably think that Ronaldo is. His goal-scoring prowess since joining Los Blancos has been incredible, and he could potentially put the entire team on his back.
The consensus seems to be that Germany and Portugal will advance past the group stage, but Ives Galarcep of Goal.com cautions that Team USA has spoiled Portugal's World Cup party before.
The main thing working against Portugal is a lack of depth. Even though they boast a legitimate superstar in Ronaldo, their overall depth is concerning. There is especially a notable lack of supporting goal scorers. Aside from Ronaldo, only Nani, Hugo Almeida, Helger Postiga and defender Bruno Alves have scored double-digit goals over the course of their international careers.
The key for Portugal will be trying to at least draw Germany in the opener and then defeat the United States. If Team USA can muster a draw or better against Selecao, though, Ronaldo's team could be in big trouble.
Over the past couple World Cups, no African squad has had more success than Ghana.The Black Stars reached the knockout stage in each of the past two World Cups, and they were lauded for their transcendent play.
That type of mystique should certainly help Ghana, but they will need more than that to advance. Ghana haven't had a great year by any means, but now that they have managed to qualify for the World Cup, they are definitely a team worth watching.
The rankings suggest that Ghana are easily the worst team in the his group, but based upon their history of success in the World Cup, it is hard to imagine them losing all four matches. That means they could play spoiler by drawing or even beating a team or two in this tournament. The Black Stars are no strangers to that, especially when it comes to facing the United States. As Bleacher Report's Dan Levy points out, Ghana eliminated the United States in both 2006 and 2010.
Perhaps some of that magic will return. If it does, then team captain and leading scorer Asamoah Gyan will have to be on top of his game. Like Portugal, Ghana is lacking when it comes to scoring depth. Gyan has 39 career goals, midfielder Sulley Muntari has 20 and no other player has more than Michael Essien's nine.
Ghana is generally a fast, explosive and offensively-minded squad, but it might be best off taking a defensive approach in this group if it hopes to avoid losing out.
The United States are coming off their most successful year ever, and they are ranked 14th in the world, but the draw didn't do them any favors.
Based on the fact that they were in Pot 2 with the CONCACAF and Asian teams, it eliminated many of the possibilities for easy opponents in the group stage. There was little room for error in that regard, and things didn't fall Team USA's way. The Americans have an uphill climb ahead of them, but their goose is far from cooked.
Although the United States may not have a stud like Ronaldo or Ozil, they have plenty of players who can put the ball in the back of the net. All-time American leading scorer Landon Donovan is chief among them, but Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Eddie Johnson, Michael Bradley and others are more than capable as well.
With that said, the Americans have one unfortunate caveat to deal with. According to Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated, the United States have the toughest travel schedule out of anyone in the tournament.
That could take its toll on Jurgen Klinsmann's squad, but that is where depth will come into play.
As much depth as Team USA has up front, though, they are lacking defensively. Matt Besler, DeMarcus Beasley, Brad Evans and Omar Gonzalez have their moments, but they are prone to breakdowns. Luckily for the Americans, they have one of the World Cup's best goalkeepers in Tim Howard. He could be the X-factor in terms of cleaning up any messes that his defenders leave.
This draw is a far cry from what the United States got in 2010 when they faced England, Slovenia and Algeria, but the obituaries shouldn't be written yet. The Americans will be motivated to beat Ghana as well as Klinsmann's native German squad. The key will likely be their performance against Portugal, and if they can win that match, then a trip to the knockout stage may be in order.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter