In the buildup to every single major tournament, it’s seemingly inevitable that there will be what has come to be known as a "group of death"; a group churned out that is so perilously difficult, all of the games involved look as difficult as the rest.
Who will win the "Group of Death"?
Ahead of the 2014 World Cup, there are a host of difficult groupings. Group B contains both of the 2010 finalists in the Netherlands and Spain, while Group D will see Uruguay, Italy and England battle it out. But of all the groups, it’s Group G—containing Germany, Portugal, the United States and Ghana—that looks the most enticing.
The aforementioned quartet will play out six intriguing group match-ups—that looks all but certain—but who’s going to get out of this menacingly difficult grouping?
Here, let’s run the rule over each of the four teams involved and see which of the two sides are best placed to emerge from this exciting group and make a deep run in this tournament.
Blessed with what is almost an embarrassing amount of quality, the Germans are not only the favourites to finish atop Group G, but one of the favourites to lift the trophy on 13 July.
Joachim Loew will take a squad to South America that is well balanced, experienced and rife with a winning mentality. A look at their provisional squad gives you an idea of how intimidating a proposition they will be, courtesy of Goal USA:
The Portuguese could cause this team some problems on the counter-attack, but against the United States and Ghana, the Germans will simply have too much quality. They’ll progress as group winners, and some tough clashes in the group stage could see a battle-hardened German side make a strong impression in the latter stages of this competition.
Prediction: Group Winners
Boxing Portugal off as a team that is squarely reliant on the exploits of Cristiano Ronaldo might be a little harsh, but admittedly, if the Real Madrid forward performs well in Brazil, the chances of Paulo Bento’s team making it out of this group will be significantly increased.
Ronaldo scored an astonishing hat-trick against Sweden in the second leg of their World Cup qualifier and after a trophy-laden campaign with Real Madrid, he comes into this one in sparkling form. Here’s how he fired Portugal to the Brazil finals:
Bento has selected a squad that has a nice balance between youth and experience, which should see the Portuguese field a capable first XI. But there is little strength in depth in this team, and should a player like Ronaldo, Joao Moutinho or Pepe pick up a knock, it’d create an absence difficult to compensate for.
If Ronaldo turns it on against Germany, then they could nick a win. But regardless of what happens in that opening group game, the Portuguese should have enough to progress from Group G, where they could meet Belgium in the second round.
The Black Stars will be looking to better their quarter-final appearance of four years ago in Brazil, but their imbalanced squad looks set to toil in South America.
Aside from midfield—where Ghana have a myriad of options—this squad just doesn’t look to have what it takes to match the likes of Germany and Portugal. They have little pedigree within both their defensive or goalkeeping selections, whilst their star forward Asamoah Gyan remains an unknown quantity after his move to Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates.
If they are to progress, it’s going to have to be through some stellar midfield displays. Kwadwo Asamoah is their standout player, and the Juventus man will provide dynamism and quality from either the left-hand side or the centre of midfield.
It’s difficult to see their defence holding out against the might of Ronaldo, Thomas Mueller and Marco Reus, though. And for that reason, the Ghanaians are looking at an early exit in Brazil.
The narrative surrounding the USMNT heading into this tournament is naturally all about Landon Donovan. The man who has accrued 156 caps for the national team was left out of the squad by Jurgen Klinsmann, and while the German’s thinking is clear, in omitting Donovan, he’s deprived this squad of its main source of creativity.
Instead, the team will rely on its energy and its cohesiveness to get results in Brazil. Tireless midfielder Michael Bradley epitomises this particular approach, but it’s difficult to see him dictating the pace of the game against any of the teams involved, as noted here by Brandon Boyer:
Let's not pretend Bradley is going to boss the midfield against Germany and Portugal. May have a chance against Ghana, but big doubts #USMNT— Brändön Böyër (@bboyer30) May 22, 2014
With no Donovan, it’s difficult to see this team scoring many goals out in Brazil. Clint Dempsey remains a goal threat, of course, but he doesn’t quite have the class to play a killer ball or beat a couple of men in the box. As such, the USMNT could look pretty blunt against stellar opposition.
You just get the impression that Klinsmann is going to look a little silly for dropping the LA Galaxy man, and this United States team will struggle as a result.