Key Battles That Will Shape Germany's World Cup Clash with Portugal

Stefan Bienkowski@@SbienkowskiFeatured ColumnistJune 15, 2014

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, centre, laughs with teammates Fabio Coentrao, left, and Pepe prior a friendly soccer match between Portugal and Greece at the National stadium, in Oeiras, near Lisbon, Saturday, May 31, 2014. The game was a warm-up match for both teams ahead the World Cup in Brazil. The match ended in a 0-0 draw. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Francisco Seco/Associated Press

On Monday, Germany will begin their World Cup campaign against Portugal at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador in the opening Group G clash.

There, Joachim Loew's squad of World Cup favourites will face off against what many consider to be a side that could well prove to be a late addition to the dark-horse category of the competition. 

This match will not only go on to impact upon the fate of Group G's eventual outcome but also showcase some of the best players in European football today.

So let's see how each side intend to face off against one another on Monday. 


Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Jerome Boateng


In perhaps the most obvious dual of this coming match, Bayern Munich full-back Jerome Boateng will face the daunting task of making sure that Germany suffer no anguish at the hands of Cristiano Ronaldo: the best player in world football at the moment. 

To most neutrals, this will look like a one-way tie. How could the central defender, who couldn't even get a game for Manchester City, keep a hold of Real Madrid's most prized possession? Well, it's not as simple as that. 

Boateng has, of course, played this role against Ronaldo beforeand succeeded—when the two sides faced one another in their opening match of Euro 2012. Just as he is expected to do on Monday, Boateng played at right-back in that game and comprehensively dealt Ronaldo. 

The Portuguese star has, however, come a long way since 2012. Despite Boateng's own development over the past two seasons, it will still be an incredibly tough task to ask of someone who is essentially a central defender.

Who will come out on top? We'll just have to wait and see which one of these two players will get the better of the other.  


William Carvalho vs. Mesut Ozil

One of Bento's most interesting moves during his time as coach of the Portugal national team has been the fast-track introduction of Sporting defensive midfielder William Carvalho. The 22-year-old will be tasked with keeping Mesut Ozil quiet on Monday. 

Despite his age, Carvalho commands the centre of midfield like the most hardened veterans of the game and can pass as well as any playmaker within the Portuguese side. But is he ready to shadow a player of Ozil's quality in the World Cup?


For Loew, one of the priorities in this opening showdown will undoubtedly be the task of getting the ball to Ozil as quickly and as often as possible. Carvalho may have all the talent in the world, but he hasn't really played at this level of intensity before, nor has he had to keep tabs on a player like Arsenal's chief attacking midfielder. 

Of course, it won't be the defensive midfielder that will bother most German fans. Ozil can still drift from defenders and find pockets of space as well as he ever could—a task he is likely to continue doing despite Carvalho's presence on Monday—but what he can do once given that time and space is something that hasn't quite been up to scratch of late. 

It may not take too much from the Portuguese midfielder to put Ozil off his already worrying game. 


Bruno Alves vs. Thomas Mueller


We're unlikely to really know how Germany intend to line up in attack on Monday until the team actually walk out onto the pitch in Salvador. Yet, whomever Loew chooses as his sole striker for this coming match, you can bet that Thomas Mueller will either be that man or the forward accompanying him on the right-hand side. 

Why such team selections matter little is because, no matter where Mueller plays, he will undoubtedly still end up playing the exact same role. 

With Bento likely to play Fabio Coentrao at left-back, Loew will be hoping to deploy Mueller in his usual forward role that tends to see him float out to the right. This will obviously be made easier by Coentrao's reluctance to sit deep—especially when Portugal are in attack—and offer plenty of space to exploit. 

This will also have further implications for Portugal's shape, as central defender Bruno Alves will be expected to follow the German forward whenever he starts roaming unmarked. Here is where the Bayern striker can truly exploit the veteran Fenerbahce defender. 

Alves is still an outstanding defender—strong in the air and even more powerful in the tackle—but he has lost almost all his pace, and without Pepe in cover, he could be liable to getting turned by Germany's athletic young forward. 

If Portugal want to keep Mueller quiet, they may need to double up on him or keep Coentrao from roaming forward. 


Minor Battles

Bastian Schweinsteiger vs. Joao Moutinho

The Bayern midfielder is as useful at throwing his weight around the middle of the pitch as he is at setting up plays. He'll relish the opportunity of getting tight to the Portuguese playmaker and making things very uncomfortable for him. 

Joao Pereira vs. Lukas Podolski

With Marco Reus out injured, Loew is likely to play it safe and stick with the tried and tested choice of Podolski as his left-winger. What the Arsenal player brings to the table is a ferocious desire to not only create goals but also get in the face of the opposition. Expect lumps and bruises aplenty between these two.