The heavyweights of Group G get their respective World Cup campaigns underway on Monday in arguably the tie of the group stage, with Germany taking on Portugal in Salvador.
With both sides sitting in the top five of the FIFA world rankings and boasting some of the brightest talents in world football, fireworks are expected from the offset at the Arena Fonte Nova.
Here, we take a look at how both teams have prepared for Monday’s clash and assess how the match could play out.
Venue: Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador
Date: Monday 16 June
Time: 5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET
TV Info: ITV1/ESPN
Form Guide: Germany
Germany have become the nearly men of recent World Cups, coming second in 2002 followed by semi-final appearances in both 2006 and 2010.
However, the current crop of Germans under Joachim Low will feel that they have what it takes to cross the line for the first time since 1990 as their hunt for world title No. 4 kicks off.
Heading into the tournament, Germany couldn’t possibly be in better form, and below we see their last 10 matches—per SoccerWay:
|Germany 3-0 Austria||Win|
|Faroe Islands 0-3 Germany||WIn|
|Germany 3-0 Republic of Ireland||Win|
|Sweden 3-5 Germany||Win|
|Italy 1-1 Germany||Draw|
|England 0-1 Germany||Win|
|Germany 1-0 Chile||Win|
|Germany 0-0 Poland||Draw|
|Germany 2-2 Cameroon||Draw|
|Germany 6-1 Armenia||Win|
During the Germans’ thumping 6-1 defeat of Armenia in their final tune-up game before the World Cup, they showed all of their credentials to be crowned world champions.
Though Armenia are hardly the most daunting of oppositions for a team as ruthless as Germany, the way they conducted themselves and found routes to goal was exemplary.
It was also a history-making evening for one particular star, Miroslav Klose, whose 76th-minute goal saw him become the nation’s all-time highest goalscorer—as BBC Sport reported:
Miroslav Klose is currently on 14 World Cup goals, just one behind the all-time leading scorer Ronaldo (15). pic.twitter.com/hERk9rz7sR— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 8, 2014
With 69 international goals to his name, Klose will now be looking to move into the 70s against Portugal, though it’s not going to be easy against Paulo Bento’s in-form side.
Form Guide: Portugal
When Portugal take to the field, it’s difficult to look beyond Cristiano Ronaldo, but Bento really does have a wealth of talent at his disposal.
With the likes of Fabio Coentrao, William Carvalho, Joao Moutinho and Nani, it’s clear Portugal are far from a one-man team, and they’ll be looking to prove that against Germany.
Similar to their Group G opponents, the Portuguese are in blistering form heading into the World Cup with their last 10 matches bringing ample success, as SoccerWay’s statistics reveal:
|Northern Ireland 2-4 Portugal||Win|
|Brazil 3-1 Portugal||Loss|
|Portugal 1-1 Israel||Draw|
|Portugal 3-0 Luxembourg||Win|
|Portugal 1-0 Sweden||Win|
|Sweden 2-3 Portugal||Win|
|Portugal 5-1 Cameroon||Win|
|Portugal 0-0 Greece||Draw|
|Mexico 0-1 Portugal||Win|
|Republic of Ireland 1-5 Portugal||Win|
Though Ronaldo missed the friendlies with Mexico and Greece and failed to get on the scoresheet in Portugal’s last match against the Republic of Ireland, he was the star of the show in New Jersey that night.
Playing 65 minutes after returning from a troubling injury, he showed no signs of weakness as he tormented the Irish defence with the kind of performance worthy of a Ballon d’Or winner.
Though Germany’s defence is one of the meanest around, keeping six clean sheets in its last 10 games, facing Ronaldo is enough to make any back line a bit nervy—although manager Low doesn’t seem to think so.
Low Not Threatened by Ronaldo
Speaking with FIFA.com, the 54-year-old manager acknowledged Portugal are a dangerous outfit, though went on to say that his side can cope with the threat posed by Ronaldo:
We're up against a side who are right behind us in the world rankings, and they are the world champions when it comes to the counter-attack. Look at the class they have got—Portugal are definitely tough opponents.
After confirming that Philipp Lahm will take up the holding midfield role while Jerome Boateng will be in charge of keeping Ronaldo quiet, Low said:
It does play a role who can keep Ronaldo in check, and Jerome Boateng has done that in the past. So too has Lahm so together they will deal with him. You cannot let him out of your sight, literally. You've always got to ask 'what's Ronaldo doing, where is Ronaldo.'
What Ronaldo will hope to be doing is adding to his World Cup goals tally, which currently stands at just two goals, though with Boateng and Lahm joining forces to thwart him it may be a tough day at the office for the Madrid star.
Though Portugal have the kind of players who can turn defence into attack in a matter of seconds, the fact that their defence isn’t as prolific as their attack will likely play into German hands.
There’s no better nation in world football at shutting players out, and if the Germans can keep Ronaldo quiet while continuing to adopt their attacking style then they could find their way to three points.
Spain vs. the Netherlands was the other all-star group opener of World Cup 2014, and that certainly didn’t disappoint. Though a 5-1 scoreline is unlikely, it’s still all set to be a thriller in Salvador.
Prediction: Germany 3-2 Portugal