After years of build-up, the World Cup is finally in full flow and it’s safe to say that the opening four days of action haven’t disappointed.
From the Nertherlands’ 5-1 demolition of Spain to Uruguay’s shock defeat at the hands of Costa Rica, World Cup 2014 has had it all—and we’re only just getting started.
Day 5 sees teams from Group F and G in action as nations look to lay foundations for a fruitful tournament with an opening victory. Here’s everything you need to know about Monday’s action:
|Match||Time||Venue||TV Info||Live Stream|
|Germany vs. Portugal||5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET||Salvador||ITV1/ESPN||ITV Player/ESPN Player|
|Iran vs. Nigeria||8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET||Curitiba||BBC1/ESPN||BBC iPlayer/ESPN Player|
|Ghana vs. United States||11 p.m. BST/6 p.m. ET||Natal||BBC1/ESPN||BBC iPlayer/ESPN Player|
Germany vs. Portugal
The day kicks off in style as Group G heavyweights Germany and Portugal clash in Salvador, with the Germans looking to start their quest for World Cup No. 4 in style.
It’s been a case of so near yet too far for the 1954, 1974 and 1990 champions over recent tournaments, coming second in 2002 before reaching the semi-finals in both 2006 and 2010.
However, the current crop of Germans under the guidance of Joachim Low have proved that they have what it takes to go all the way in 2014, though their first mission is an extremely tricky one.
Portugal are ranked fourth in the FIFA World Ranking, just two places behind the Germans, and harbour some of the best talent that world football has to offer within their ranks.
The likes of Fabio Coentrao, Nani, Joao Moutinho, Pepe and, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo make up one of the most exciting teams in the tournament who’ll be looking to upset the odds with a victory on Monday.
Ronaldo has scored just two World Cup goals during his remarkable career, and his chances of adding to that tally against Germany looked in doubt after he limped out of a training session last week—per FOX Soccer:
However, the 29-year-old is reportedly now fully fit, and Portugal keeper Eduardo reflected on just how much the Real Madrid star contributes to the Portuguese cause—per FIFA.com:
Of course, Ronaldo is good. You're talking about the best player in the world. It's like the other good players in the other teams that can make a difference. We're ready for anything, but of course with Cristiano it's better for us. Of course we are a group, a lot of good players and nobody wins alone. But of course with Cristiano it's better for us.
Just how good Ronaldo will be depends on the Germans’ back line, who are just about the ideal candidates to keep the Portugal striker quiet.
According to SoccerWay, Germany have kept six clean sheets in their last 10 internationals and with Low likely to opt for a defensive approach on Monday, they’ll once again prove hard to break down.
Tactical nous may prove the difference between victory and defeat at the Arena Fonte Nova, and with Low at the helm, you have to lean towards the Germans.
Prediction: Germany 2-1 Portugal
Iran vs. Nigeria
Group F’s opening fixtures come to a close on Day 5, with Africa Cup of Nations champions Nigeria taking on group minnows Iran in Curitiba.
With Argentina looking like they're running away with the group and Bosnia and Herzegovina in hot pursuit, the Super Eagles must start their World Cup campaign well if they’re to stand any chance of progression.
Both Iran and Nigeria are winless in World Cups since 1998, with the Iranians' only ever victory coming in the tournament in France against the USA—per Negar Mortazavi:
However, Nigeria manager Stephen Keshi has reversed the fortunes of the Super Eagles since taking charge and will look to instrument knockout-stage progression for the first time this side of the millennium.
With players like Victor Moses, John Obi Mikel and Peter Odemwingie at his disposal, he certainly has the personnel to do just that, though his focus is on Iran for now.
Speaking with FIFA.com, Keshi said that his side must keep their wits about them on Monday against the unknown quantity of Iran:
For the Iran game we have to be focused. We have to concentrate and do our job. We're not going to take Iran lightly because they're not going to take us lightly. So we have to go out with everything that we have. They have a very good coach and I'm sure they also have some quality players. We don't know Iran very well, but we'll see them on Monday.
What Keshi does know about Iran is that having a manager like Carlos Queiroz is a big asset, though it’s unlikely that the Iranians will be able to outplay Nigeria.
It’s set to be a very physical game at the Arena da Baixada on Monday, though the talent in the Super Eagles’ squad should just about see them over the line.
Prediction: Iran 0-2 Nigeria
Ghana vs. USA
Rounding off Day 5 is Group G’s clash between Ghana and the USA in Natal, with both sides desperate for a victory to keep their chances of knockout-stage progression alive at the expense of either Germany or Portugal.
USA’s World Cup 2014 preparation has been hampered by coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s decision to leave national football sweetheart Landon Donovan out of his 23-man squad.
However, recent American form would suggest that USMNT are ready for life after Donovan, with their 2-1 friendly win over Nigeria showing that they’re not going to roll over in Group G.
Jozy Altidore’s brace gave Klismann’s men the victory in Florida, after which the 49-year-old manager said that anything is possible if they emerge through the tricky group stage—per FIFA.com:
Football is not predictable. If we get through this group, the sky is the limit. You have to be realistic. We are making every year another step forward. We don't look (at) ourselves as an underdog, even if a lot of the others do.
Despite his optimism, finding a way past Ghana—a team that have enjoyed a sensational defensive record of late—will be no easy feat on Monday.
James Kwesi Appiah’s side have kept seven clean sheets in their last 10 internationals, according to SoccerWay, and come into the tournament off the back of a convincing 4-0 victory over South Korea.
Equally capable up front as they are at the back, Ghana will pose USA endless problems at the Arena das Dunas on Monday in a match that’s set to be tight from the very first whistle.
Prediction: Ghana 1-1 USA