Here’s what you need to know about Group G: The odds are that Germany and Portugal will finish in the top two spots and advance to the knock-out round. Here’s what you need to know about this first game of Group G: Whoever wins has the best chance of not finishing in second.
SUPERNOVA: Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo is arguably the best soccer player in the world, and inarguably the biggest star on his country’s World Cup squad. At his best, he’s a joy to watch, but the soccer gods are cruel, so we probably won’t get to see him at his best. Ronaldo has been struggling with a knee injury since the beginning of June, and as late as last Thursday he was on the sideline for most of Portugal’s practice session. His teammates say he will definitely start against Germany, which is probably true. But they also say he’s 100 percent, which is probably not true.
MANGLED MANNSCHAFT: As much as Portugal is sweating over Ronaldo’s knee, Germany has been absolutely hammered by injuries. Three starters aren’t even in Brazil, but even “healthy” players like midfielders Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger have struggled to stay fit this season. Even starting goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who injured his shoulder in May, had to wait until last Thursday for Germany manager Joachim Loew to say publicly that he would start against Portgual.
STRUGGLING SELEÇÃO: As a precaution, Portugal limited Ronaldo to just 65 minutes in the team’s three warm-up friendlies. During the other 205 minutes that they played, Portugal looked… not good.
After drawing Greece 0-0, the Portuguese squeaked past Mexico with a 1-0 win, a flattering score for a flat performance, and Portugal head coach Paulo Bento said afterwards that there are things that his team needed to correct before the World Cup. His team responded with a 5-1 win over not-World Cup-bound Ireland last week, but when Ronaldo came off in the 65th minute the score was already 3-1.
PREDATORS, PREY: No matter what happens in this game, the other two teams in Group G – Ghana and the US – will be licking their chops when the final whistle blows. The loser will immediately have a target on their back, the wounded animal ready to be picked off by the pack in the fight for second place.
THE STAR YOU KNOW
Miroslav Klose, forward, Germany: Forget Cristiano Ronaldo. As of June 6, Miroslav Klose is Germany’s all-time leading scorer, and is two goals away from breaking the World Cup record.
THE PLAYER WHO WILL SURPRISE YOU:
Joao Moutinho, midfielder, Portugal: Again, forget Cristiano Ronaldo – Joao Moutinho pulls the strings for Portugal’s midfield. The AS Monaco midfielder will be the man providing service for Portugal’s prolific goalscorers.