World Cup: Five things we learned from Group G
Don’t switch off
The basic premise of staying alert for the whole 90 minutes has cost Portugal their World Cup. And you could argue Ghana as well. Portugal only lost out on second spot by goal difference, meaning the 4-0 defeat to Germany was their undoing. Sure, they only had 10 men, but if they had managed to keep that margin small, like USA’s 1-0 loss, who knows what could have happened.
Ghana had a different problem where they just couldn’t close a game out. USA pulled back the winner four minutes after Ghana had equalised. Germany drew level eight minutes after Ghana got the go-ahead goal. Portugal snatched the winner with only 10 minutes left in the game. You can’t switch off - the opposition punishes you even more on the world stage than in Under 12’s.
Everyone gets a go
Coming into this World Cup, Joachim Low seemed unsure of his ideal starting XI. Three games in and it seems he still isn’t sure. Against the USA he started Lukas Podolski on the left in the hopes that he would be more direct and get behind the US backline, but that just didn’t eventuate. At half-time he had a rethink and shifted Thomas Muller wide and put Miroslav Klose, his only true striker, on. I still don’t think that worked. He’s lost faith with his initial front three of Mario Gotze, Muller and Mesut Ozil far too quickly. They were electrifying when they got it right, and should be given a while longer on the pitch together.
It’s hot out there, drink some water
By defeating Ghana, Portugal became the first team to win their next match after playing in Manaus. That place looks gorgeous through the television, but it seems to have had a very negative impact on teams afterwards. England only managed a point after playing there and scored just one goal. Italy fared even worse with no points and no goals, and they were the winners. Croatia won 4-0 there, but in the next match conceded three times in the last 20 minutes. I don’t know what Portugal did, maybe it was oranges at half time, but they managed to do what no-one else could.
There’s no ‘I’ in team
The USA have been the big story of this group, and it comes back to what your coach said to the fast kid who would try to dribble past everyone. You’d feel a little bit better, thinking maybe now he’d pass you the ball, but he never did. The USA have worked as a well-oiled machine under Jurgen Klinsmann. They may not have as much skill or big names as the other nationals, but they have had belief, determination and that little bit of luck. Contrastingly, the gaping stance of Cristiano Ronaldo won’t be seen again this World Cup. He just didn’t have the support cast around him - some through injury and others just through lack of quality.
It’s not about the money
This may sound incredibly naive but I cannot understand the whole ‘win bonus’ rows. I, along with anyone who has had the flicker of a dream of being a professional footballer, would give an arm and a leg to play at the World Cup, which ironically would make me even worse, having only one leg (although my Under 16’s coach would hardly believe I could get worse). You are playing for your country and, frankly, that should be honour enough and enough motivation to get a win. Even if you approach the scenario economically it doesn’t make sense. Here you are, playing on the biggest stage in the world, for a team that isn’t your current club. If it’s a move away or just a new contract you’re after, then there is no better place to prove you deserve it than the World Cup. Cash bonuses should be the least of your worries.