10 Pivotal Factors That Will Decide FIFA World Cup 2014 Group G
The 2014 FIFA World Cup has thrown up two viable contenders for the term "Group of Death," with both Group B and Group G looking formidable.
Here we analyse the latter and outline 10 pivotal factors that can make or break teams' chances.
Germany's defensive aptitude, Portugal's midfield makeup and Ghana's firepower, among others, will all come into play.
Read on for an in-depth look at how and why Group G will be decided.
Cristiano Ronaldo, simply put, wins games by himself. If he decides it's over, it's over.
Playing off the left side for Portugal, he's the primary goal source given the concerns over teammates Hugo Almeida and Helder Postiga, and he is often looked at to make the difference.
The playoff victory over Sweden stands as the greatest modern example of what he can do for the Seleccao—his hat-trick secured their passage to the finals.
Eder the Difference?
Eder, of Braga, has barely played for Portugal over the past several years, with injuries interrupting his career and preventing Paulo Bento from getting a good look at him in a Seleccao shirt.
He's been called into the 23-man squad among fears he'd miss out, and for many Portuguese followers, he's the natural answer at centre-forward despite boasting only six national caps.
Can he unseat the quantity of attackers in front of him to make the difference? He doesn't have the pedigree, but he's the best tactical fit. Eder could banish age-old concerns over the quality of Portugal's strikers.
Portugal are expected to qualify from Group G, so aficionados are talking about what they can do to win the group, not to scrape through.
Germany provide a formidable obstacle, and if they are to stem the attacking riches of Joachim Loew's team, William Carvalho's fast-tracking into the first team needs to pay off.
For years, Miguel Veloso held the role of anchor in Paulo Bento's 4-3-3 formation, but he's not the natural destroyer they need. William is the epitome of the modern-day defensive midfielder, with size, pace, skill and range aplenty.
He'll be vital in stopping Marco Reus, Mesut Ozil and company.
Can Ghana Open Teams Up?
Ghana are still reliant on Asamoah Gyan after all this time. In the four years since the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, they've failed to find an heir to his throne.
While he's still a talented scorer, his ability to split open crack defences has lessened over the years. He's listed as 28 years of age, but Gyan is one of a number of Africans at the centre of age fraud discussion.
Beyond him, there's a rash of central midfielders, but no strikers. Kevin-Prince Boateng is perhaps the next best answer as a false nine.
Germany's Gung-Ho Approach
Germany are one of the most tactically interesting sides in the tournament, as Joachim Loew has loosened the reins and allowed his charges to attack at will.
Utilising Mesut Ozil, Thomas Mueller and Marco Reus behind Mario Goetze as a false nine could be epic offensively, but it leaves holes for others to exploit and the defence isn't perfect.
When die Mannschaft flood forward, the defence comes under pressure. No European team qualified automatically for the World Cup with more goals conceded (10) than Loew's troops.
Joachim Loew's Favouritism
Whether it's accurate or not, Joachim Loew has been accused of showing favouritism to certain players who deserve to be dropped in the eyes of the public.
In 2010 and 2012 (Euros), Lukas Podolski could have made way for the emerging Marko Marin or Marco Reus. During recent qualifiers, when Mesut Ozil went off the boil slightly, Loew refused to sub him as he's integral to the way the system works.
There are very few slights on Loew as a manager, but this is one used to tarnish his reputation.
The Juergen Klinsmann Factor
If there's an opposing manager out there who has a better understanding of the Germany setup than most, it has to be Juergen Klinsmann.
The former Tottenham Hotspur striker won both the 1990 FIFA World Cup and the 1996 European Championships with die Mannschaft, but he will now witness them playing from the opposite dugout, attempting to foil their path to the knockout stages.
U.S. fans will hope Klinsmann can shape his side appropriately to nullify Joachim Loew's troops and play on any insecurities he's spied from the inside.
When Portugal and Germany play Ghana and the U.S. it's likely to resemble a schoolyard game of attack vs. defence.
Both Juergen Klinsmann and James Kwesi Appiah will be working on containment strategies to hinder the effectiveness of Cristiano Ronaldo, Mario Goetze and company, while Joachim Loew and Paulo Bento will be working to overcome packed low-blocks and defensive approaches.
The effectiveness of these strategies will determine whether the favourites prevail or the underdogs cause an upset. A true battle of tacticians.
Jozy Altidore: Club vs. Country
The Jozy Altidore conundrum continues to mystify USMNT fans. How is it that a man who plays so well for the national team (and for AZ Alkmaar) flopped so badly in the Premier League—twice!?
The Sunderland striker has eight goals and two assists in his last 11 appearances for his country and scored a spectacular hat-trick against Bosnia & Herzegovina late last year.
Which Altidore shows up will factor into their ability to progress.
The First Set of Games
Group G's opening round of games are the most pivotal of the lot, with Germany facing Portugal in the early kick-off and Ghana facing the U.S. later on.
For Ghana and USA, losing the first game would essentially eliminate them from the tournament barring remarkable circumstances. Meanwhile, if there's to be a winner in the opening match, it could shape the group.