World Cup Group G preview: Germany v Portugal

Germany face Portugal at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador on June 17, from 2am Tuesday (Australia time).

In the opening World Cup Group G game, Germany take on Portugal in what should be a stretched game with plenty of goals as both teams aim for top spot in the group.

Head-to-head

Played 17: Germany 9 wins, Portugal 3 wins, 5 draws.

Most recently, these two met in Group B of Euro 2012. On that occasion, Germany managed a 1-0 win with a 72nd-minute goal to striker Mario Gomez, who has been left out of Low’s squad for this tournament.

The game

The attacking talent on show will be immense, the defensive quality less so. This should be a game with goals, as has been the pattern throughout the tournament so far.

The pace of both front lines and the willingness to get forward should see plenty of opportunities.

Germany will play with more control and intricacy in midfield, with Portugal more likely to try and spring counter attacks through their talismanic captain.

The big issue

Joachim Low’s team selection has been somewhat erratic recently, unsure of exactly how he wants his team to play. The decision to select only Miroslav Klose as a recognised striker suggests that he will elect for a very fashionable false nine given his vast array of talents attacking midfielders.

Mario Gotze has performed this role in the past for both Bayern Munich and the national side and should be employed in this role again. With Marco Reus unavailable on the left either Andre Schurrle or Lukas Podolski will come in. Podolski is much more of an orthodox winger, as opposed to Schurrle who would come inside like Reus, and thus is the more likely option.

His other selection nightmare will be where to play his captain. Phillip Lahm has played most of the season in midfield for Bayern Munich, but the national side has no other strong fullbacks available. Jerome Boateng was recently used at right back, but don’t be surprised if Lahm is given the job to cover Cristiano Ronaldo.

Game breaker

Predictably, Portugal’s hopes rest on one man’s perfectly sculpted shoulders - Ronaldo. You can watch all the videos you like, but nothing can prepare you for the speed and power of the winger, who is faultless in the attacking third. With Real Madrid teammate Fabio Coentrao wrapping him on the sideline, it is possibly the strongest left side in the tournament and Germany’s right side will need to be extremely disciplined.

If subdued however, the defensive holes left behind Ronaldo are rarely filled by the man himself. His teammates will be aware of this, but so will the opposition, and Thomas Muller is an ideal player to exploit this space.

Prediction

This tournament has already thrown up surprises, and Portugal are more than capable of producing at this stage, but Germany will be hungry, the players expect to win all three games in this group.

It could be a case of too much class up front for Germany, but if Ronaldo has his way the inexperience of their backline may be their downfall.