A massive fixture kicks off Group G of the World Cup as the two favourites, Germany and Portugal will meet in Salvador. Both sides have high expectations coming into the tournament so expect plenty of tension and drama in this match.
The biggest question surrounding the match is the fitness of Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese superstar has been nursing a knee injury that kept him out of the lineup for Portugal’s warmup matches prior to the tournament. Ronaldo did participate in a full training session on Friday, and is expected to make the team sheet for the opening match.
Portugal will lineup in a 4-3-3 formation with Helder Postiga and Hugo Almeida joining Ronaldo on the front line. Postiga is inconsistent while Almeida will disappear from time to time. Both will have to be at their best, especially if Ronaldo isn’t 100%.
The midfield does have some question marks, but none concerning Joao Moutinho. The Monaco talisman was terrific at Euro 2012 and Portugal is hoping he can carry over his stellar play to Brazil. Silvestre Varela would be a better choice than Nani in the midfield. Varela has shown better form in recent matches than the Manchester United winger. Either Raul Meireles or Miguel Veloso will lay back and be the holding midfielder.
The back four is patrolled by Pepe. The temperamental Real Madrid fullback has battled nagging injuries prior to the tournament, but is expected to be in the lineup. Fabio Coentrao enjoyed an outstanding campaign at Real Madrid, as he was an integral part of the Spanish side winning the Champions League. Bruno Alves and Joao Pereira round out the back four.
If Portugal has an advantage, it is between the sticks. Rui Patricio is one of the best keepers in the world, and was a main reason why Sporting Lisbon will return to the Champions League after a long absence.
Germany usually uses a 4-2-3-1 formation, similar to the way Bayern Munich lines up. Miroslav Klose is expected to be the lone striker, but will age catch up to him? The Lazio forward is playing in his fourth World Cup and at 36, one wonders if Klose can handle the Brazilian heat.
The strength of the German side is in the midfield. Thomas Muller was named the young player of the 2010 World Cup, and will be asked to do more for his country in 2014. The Bayern Munich star scored 26 goals in all competitions for his club and can move up to a forward spot if need be. Mesut Ozil is the talismanic playmaker in the midfield for Germany. The Real Madrid man is a superb passer and is tricky around the penalty area. The options for Germany are plentiful as either Lukas Poldoski, Mario Gotze, Toni Kroos, Julian Draxler or Andre Schurrle could slid into the other attacking midfield spot.
Bastian Schweinsteiger is considered one of the best holding midfielders on the planet, and will anchor the centre of the pitch for Germany. He will have to as Sami Khedira is a sinkhole and prone to being run out of the pitch by players with pace. Ronaldo may find some joy, if he lines up against Khedira on the flank.
Germany breathed a sigh of relief when it was revealed that Philipp Lahm’s toe injury wasn’t serious. The Bayern Munich left back will once again captain Die Mannschaft in the World Cup. Jerome Boateng will line up at right back. Mats Hummels and Per Mertesacker will partner up on central defence.
Manuel Neuer will get the call between the sticks for Germany. The Bayern Munich keeper is looking to rebound from a slightly disappointing season for his club team.
A cracker of a matchup. Portugal is essentially going with the same lineup that went to the semifinals in Euro 2012. If Ronaldo is 100% fit, then A Seleccao will be a formidable foe. Germany is deep in the midfield, but questions about who will finish may push midfielders forward, leaving them wanting in the back. This should be an entertaining fixture that will end in a 2-2 draw.
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