Five days of the 2014 World Cup are in the books. With all but four of the 32 teams in Brazil having played their openers, groups are starting to take shape.
The group of death—Group G—made its much-anticipated debut on Monday with Germany facing Portugal and the United States looking to avenge their 2010 knockout loss to Ghana. Jammed in the middle was a Group F tilt between Nigeria and Iran.
Let's get right to it and break down the latest group standings, results and fixtures.
|Belgium vs. Algeria||June 17||12 p.m.||H|
|Brazil vs. Mexico||June 17||3 p.m.||A|
|Russia vs. Korea Republic||June 17||6 p.m.||H|
|Australia vs. Netherlands||June 18||12 p.m.||B|
|Spain vs. Chile||June 18||3 p.m.||B|
|Croatia vs. Cameroon||June 18||6 p.m.||A|
|Colombia vs. Ivory Coast||June 19||12 p.m.||C|
|Uruguay vs. England||June 19||3 p.m.||D|
|Japan vs. Greece||June 19||6 p.m.||C|
|Italy vs. Costa Rica||June 20||12 p.m.||D|
|Switzerland vs. France||June 20||3 p.m.||E|
|Honduras vs. Ecuador||June 20||6 p.m.||E|
Day 5 Results
Germany 4, Portugal 0
The group of death was set to start with a bang between two of the world's top five teams, but Germany proved to be far too much for Portugal to keep up with, as the favorite wound up with a resounding 4-0 victory.
It started early for the Germans. After a couple of early chances for Cristiano Ronaldo, Germany took the early lead when Mario Goetze drew a penalty and Thomas Mueller put it in for the 1-0 lead.
A Mats Hummels header off a corner took Die Mannschaft to a 2-0 lead before Pepe drew red before halftime, leaving Portugal with 10 men and an insurmountable deficit. Two more goals from Mueller gave him his hat-trick and Germany the 4-0 victory.
World Cup dominance is nothing new for the Germans, as Squawka Football noted:
Germany have now scored 4 goals in 3 of their last 5 matches at the World Cup finals. pic.twitter.com/4TiXFAK0VH— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 16, 2014
To add injury to insult for the Portuguese, both forward Hugo Almeida and defender Fabio Coentrao left the game with muscle injuries.
It's not looking good for either, according to Portugal manager Paulo Bento, per ESPN FC's Nicholas Rigg:
Portugal manager Paulo Bento says Fabio Coentrao and Hugo Almeida have muscle injuries and says “it isn’t encouraging”.— Nicholas Rigg (@nicholasrigg) June 16, 2014
Portugal's injuries, along with the absence of Pepe, could prove detrimental in its next match against the United States. Failing to pick up the three points there could end up dooming its chances of advancing out of the group stage.
Meanwhile, Germany is sitting pretty, as Paul Carr of ESPN reported:
Updated Soccer Power Index odds to advance: Germany 98%, #USMNT 37% (up from 33%), Ghana 36%, Portugal 29%.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) June 16, 2014
It's called the group of death for a reason, and neither team will have an easy go of things with Ghana and the U.S. on the horizon. But after positioning itself with an early win, there should be little doubt that Germany advances to the next round.
On the other end of things, Portugal's chances are quickly slipping away.
Iran 0, Nigeria 0
The action so far at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil has been some of the most exciting in the history of the esteemed event, with no draws through the opening 12 matches.
That changed with Iran and Nigeria facing off to a scoreless draw on Monday, marking the first draw of the tournament, according to ESPN's SportsCenter:
Iran and Nigeria play to a 0-0 draw, earning 1 point apiece. It's the first tie of the World Cup. pic.twitter.com/bF0VAcnyRh— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 16, 2014
Both teams were able to watch the other Group F match from afar on Sunday, seeing Argentina fight out a 2-1 victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina. Both sides, even Bosnia, showed the ability to prove that they are capable of making it through to the next round.
Nigeria looked keen on taking advantage of the opportunity early on with a slew of scoring chances, but none found the netting as it entered halftime scoreless.
In the second half, it was more of the same. The Nigerians dominated possession at a rate of 69 percent and put four shots on goal to Iran's one, but it wasn't enough to get a late winner.
Iran manager Carlos Queiroz commented on the result, per Bloomberg's Golnar Motevalli:
Both sides could have benefited greatly from obtaining all three points in the opener, as it would have given them a big boost heading into difficult matchups with Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
But even with this result, both are one point ahead of Bosnia after one round of play and tied for second place in Group F.
USA 2, Ghana 1
The United States scored moments after the national anthems were sung, and after a demoralizing late equalizer from Ghana, the U.S. broke through with a miraculous late goal to win 2-1.
Everybody was curious to find out how the Americans would come out of the gates in Brazil. Well, they answered that curiosity in resounding fashion in the opening minute, when Clint Dempsey scored to put the USA up 1-0.
Dempsey's goal was one of the fastest in World Cup history, per ESPN's Paul Carr:
FIFA officially clocks Clint Dempsey's goal at 34 seconds, the 6th-fastest goal in #WorldCup history.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) June 16, 2014
Instead of sitting back after scoring that opening-minute goal, the Americans continued pushing throughout the early part of the first half. But that all came to a screeching halt when Jozy Altidore came up gimpy during a run in the 22nd minute, and his exit with a hamstring injury all but marked the end of America's quality chances for much of the match's remainder.
The second half was almost exclusively the Americans holding on for dear life, but they couldn't hold on forever, as Andre Ayew equalized for Ghana after a half full of quality scoring chances. That made the score 1-1, and the momentum swung in Ghana's favor.
The air had been sucked out of America's sails, and Ghana pushed on to try to find a late winner. The USA's hopes of even amassing one point seemed to be slipping away with every Ghana opportunity.
Then, like clockwork, the miracle came.
America ground out a corner kick in a rare move into the Ghana attacking third, and substitute defender John Brooks rose up to head it home in the 86th minute to win it for the United States.
Brooks not only won the game, but also made history on the play, per ESPN Stats & Information:
The United States simply scored too early in this one, and Ghana were able to keep the Americans on their heels as they pressed on in second-half attack. It nearly resulted in Ghana coming out with a result, until the USA saw yet another World Cup miracle end in its favor.
Ghana was very clearly on the attack for much of the contest, and it showed in the final stats, as per WhoScored.com, but it wasn't enough:
USA head coach Jurgen Klinsmann lauded the fighting mentality of his American squad, per The Associated Press' Tim Reynolds:
Jurgen: "We have a great spirit. A U.S. team always has a great spirit and fights until the last second."— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) June 17, 2014
The three points to open up Group G are nothing short of crucial for the U.S., which next plays Portugal. Any sort of result there would give it sole position of second place entering the group-stage finale against Germany.
Meanwhile, Ghana has to be feeling disheartened after fighting so hard to come out with points. It faces Germany next, and a loss there would be lethal to its shot at advancing.
Follow Steven Cook on Twitter.