Germany and Portugal get their World Cup campaigns underway on Day 5 in Brazil as two of the competition's most exciting sides kick off Group G.
Perennial contenders, Germany have not actually won a major tournament since Euro 1996 and will be desperate to change that in Brazil. But they face a very tough opener against a side containing arguably the best player on the planet.
Here are the current group standings with more than half of the teams having played their opening game:
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As well as Portugal and Germany, Iran face Nigeria for their opener on Monday while Ghana and USA face off in Natal.
Here are the match odds for Day 5 of the tournament:
Read on for full predictions of the outcome of Day 5, which sees Group F and Group G get their opening fixtures out the way.
Germany and Portugal to Play Out First Draw
A remarkable feature of Brazil's World Cup so far has been a complete lack of draws in the first 11 matches, a big change from previous tournaments as QPR player Joey Barton points out:
Not been a draw in this World Cup yet. 60% of 1st games at previous WC have ended in draws? What is going on? Brilliant😆😆— Joseph Barton (@Joey7Barton) June 14, 2014
However, that has to change some time, and Germany's clash with Portugal could well be the first draw of World Cup 2014.
While Germany arguably have a better overall side—Bundesliga expert Cristian Nyari provides Bild's expected starting XI—Portugal have Cristiano Ronaldo:
Bild speculating that Lahm will start in Schweinsteiger's place and Ozil will start up front for Germany in Brazil. pic.twitter.com/Fj7gv0b2Ut— Cristian Nyari (@Cnyari) June 9, 2014
The Real Madrid star had many people sweating over his fitness but he has now confirmed that he will indeed be fully ready to play on Monday, per The Guardian:
The presence of Ronaldo—who scored 48 times in 41 La Liga and Champions League outings last season per WhoScored.com—makes Portugal a massive threat and makes their clash with Germany very difficult to call.
Thus a draw seems the likely outcome, but goals should be expected, despite the fact Miroslav Klose is the only genuine striker in the German squad.
What will be the result on Monday?
Joachim Low's side scored 36 goals in 10 qualifying games and they have firepower all over the pitch.
Equally, as well as Ronaldo, Portugal can boast other attacking quality in the likes of Helder Postiga, Joao Moutinho and Nani—whose form for the national team often belies his poor record at Manchester United.
Thus a high-scoring game should be expected but not a winner. While these two sides should both qualify for the last 16, a draw in the Group G opener would leave top spot up for grabs.
Prediction: Germany 2-2 Portugal
Nigeria and USA both to win
In 2010, the US were knocked out of the World Cup by Ghana in the last-16 stage, but they should be able to claim revenge in Brazil.
Sunderland striker Jozy Altidore finally found his scoring boots in USA's final warm-up game against Nigeria, which saw them claim a 2-1 win, per football writer Graham Ruthven:
This is key for Jurgen Klinsmann's side as they will need an in-form striker if they are to even attempt to get out of a very tough Group G. They have more quality than Ghana—with a world ranking of 13 compared to their opponents' 37—and that should show on Monday.
Meanwhile, reigning African Cup of Nations champions Nigeria have a very good chance of getting off to a winning start in Group F against Iran.
The Super Eagles have the likes of John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses in a strong midfield that should carve out plenty of chances and see them to a first win in Brazil.
Nigeria have a decent chance of making the knockout rounds and their key match will be against Bosnia-Herzegovina. But an opening win is an absolute must against Iran.
Prediction: USA 2-1 Ghana, Nigeria 1-0 Iran