Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Group G

Deutschland (FIFA #2) Die Mannschaft is coming into this World Cup with a lot of pressure on them.  Germans have come to expect greatness from their teams and with the amount of talent they have that is not an unreasonable expectation.  Unfortunately they have faced a few recent injuries (Marco Reus in particular) but they should be able to overcome that and go deep in the tournament.  When Joachim Low took over the team in 2006 he changed the way they play soccer.  No longer was it all long passes and hard shots from outside the box but he incorporated a more Spanish style with players making multiple runs and shorter passes.  This has led to a much more enjoyable style of play for viewers.  Low has called up a number of young players who don't have as much experience.  Could this lead to a collapse under the pressure?  I don't think so, these young players have been playing under immense pressure for a number of years.  They will win this group.

Players to watch: Manuel Neuer - Neuer is probably one of the top 3 keepers in the world and he could get tested a bit against Portugal.  I don't see him getting much action in the next two games.  Mesut Ozil - Germans in general don't like Turks but they have fallen in love with this half Turk half Deutsch creative midfielder.  The Arsenal player has great vision and foot skills.

Portugal (4) Team Ronaldo! I kid, kind of.  They do have some other good players but unfortunately they have also been dealing with some injuries and that could disrupt the chemistry.  Currently recovering from injury, striker Ronaldo, center midfielder Raul Meireles and center back Pepe.  That is the spine of your team, not good.  They have a friendly against Ireland tonight and that will be the first time they could possibly have their starting lineup playing together.  Ronaldo has been dealing with tendinitis in his left knee which has prevented him from practicing at full strength until yesterday.  I think that Portugal will struggle in their first game against the mighty Germans.  Will they be able to rebound in game two against USA? Hmm.  Due to my completely biased opinion I think they will get third place behind the USA.

Players to watch: Cristiano Ronaldo - Duh.  One of the best looking dudes players in the world.  Dude has impeccable eye brows.  He always manages to put on a show and his physical capabilities are pretty freakish.  This team needs him.  Pepe - This dude is ugly and mean.  He is an extremely physical center back who likes to beat you up all game.  He also isn't afraid of a cheap shot or two.  Pepe is also coming off an injury and his country needs him.

Ghana (38) USA's nemesis.  The Black Stars have knocked out the USA in the last two World Cups.  In terms of Ronaldo's injury we can thank Ghana as a witchdoctor there has claimed to cause his injury.  Back to soccer, Ghana has a great midfield and they play a very attacking style of soccer.  Unfortunately their defense is a bit suspect and they will be prone to counter attacks.  I believe they will end in 4th place.

Player to watch: Michael Essien - Not afraid of contact this energetic midfielder can cause havoc on the pitch.  Having played for Chelsea, Real Madrid and now Milan, he knows that it is like to play under pressure.

United States of America (13) This is a brutal group for the Yanks.  Their only semi break of a game is against Ghana who they have not played well against.  Their best hope for getting out of the group stage is to beat Ghana in game one, tie Portugal in game two and lose respectfully against Germany thus putting them through by goal differential.  Maybe by game three Germany will have already locked up the group and the USA can catch them by surprise or against a B lineup.  I doubt that though.  Jurgen Klinsmann took over the team in 2011 and has been working on changing the whole culture of American soccer.  The first training sessions were almost nothing but running and weights with little ball work.  He wants this team to impose their will on other teams with overlapping runs and physical domination.  Jurgen also instantly started recruiting international players who had an American parent and could become US players.  This current roster has five German-Americans and one Icelandic-American.  I believe that this USA team can get second place in the group.  I am encouraged by the way they recently beat Nigeria, who plays a similar style to Ghana.  I am also encouraged that Jozy Altidore scored two goals in that game after being unable to score for the last 6 months.  This is a great time for him to get hot.  Jurgen has set himself up however, by not bringing on Landon Donovan.  Many believe that he would have to make the team due to his experience and leadership.  I am in the camp where I think it is ok that he isn't on the team.  While he is 32 years old he has been playing professionally since he was 17.  That is a lot of playing time.  He has even mentioned that he physically is not at the same level as he used to be.  The Yanks travel the most of any team this World Cup and play at some pretty bad times.  They will need to be as physically able as possible each game.  I understand that the World Cup is only every 4 years so you don't built a team while thinking about the next World Cup but I think it is important for a young player to take his spot.  If the USA loses three games though, oh man is Jurgen going to hear it.

Players to watch: Jozy Altidor - After leading the Dutch league in scoring in 2013 Altidore was signed by Sunderland with high hopes.  Oh man did he just have a crappy season.  He only managed 2 goals in 38 games.  He also went on a long scoring drought with the USA team leaving many to think that he had completely lost all confidence.  It looks like things have changed for Jozy as he just scored two goals in the USA's last friendly against Nigeria.  No better time to start getting hot.  Clint Dempsey - Probably be greatest striker the USA has ever created, Clint, can do some amazing things with the ball.  Michael Bradley - Bradley is probably the most important player on the USA squad.  All things go through him and he controls the center midfield.  It is crucial that he plays well, and he has the talent to do so.  

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