World Cup Group G | Salvador | Tue 17 Jun | 12am
The ultimate team meets the ultimate footballer.
Two sides with lofty ambitions – both will be expected to make it through to the last16 ahead of Ghana and USA – go head-to-head early doors in what many will see as the Group G decider. Such assumptions should never be made – big names always topple early – and a loss in this fixture will ramp up the pressure on either Jogi Low or Paolo Bento. But these are two countries who can certainly menace the latter stages of the tournament, regardless of what happens in Salvador.
Germany feel they could have lifted either of the last two World Cups with a lucky break here or there, and it’s fair to say they are in decent nick: they haven’t lost a match since August 2012, and many of their big names are at their absolute peak. Losing Marco Reus to injury was undeniably a massive blow, but in Andre Schurrle, Mario Gotze, Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Julian Draxler and Toni Kroos, they aren’t exactly short of attacking midfield options.
They have the skill, the will and the experience – but German fans worry that they’ve lost the ability to win when it counts and grind out results.
Portugal, meanwhile, are looking to become the first one-man team to win title since Maradona in '86. Saying this is, of course, a gross insult to both men’s team-mates, but the perception retains a grain of truth. While Hugo Almeida looked sharp and scored twice in Portugal’s recent friendly thumping of Republic of Ireland, Joao Moutinho is a fine passer, and Pepe a world-class defender and exponent of the dark arts, if Portugal do get to the semis or beyond it’s going to be because of CR7.
They work hard for each other, their star included, but lack a Plan B – although no doubt Ronny reckons Plan A will do just fine, thanks. Either way, a very winnable game against whoever comes second from Belgium, Russia, South Korea and Algeria in Group H is assumed, rightly or wrongly, to already be at stake.
What the local media say
“A team like Germany, who always reach a physical peak for tournaments, could do well with an arduous schedule when others begin to wilt. Löw has almost certainly chosen his squad with conditions and tactics in mind, and seems now to be favouring the option of a withdrawn striker.” – Munich Now
Key battle: Philipp Lahm vs Cristiano Ronaldo
The soul of each side. Germany may be a team in the truest sense, but they are epitomised by their diminutive captain, who bobs up here, there and everywhere regardless of where he plays – putting in perfectly timed tackles, shepherding opponents down blind alleys, retaining possession and playing killer passes. He’ll have to be at his busy bee best to cage Ronaldo, who is returning from injury and may not quite be at his peak, but will doubtless see a massive amount of possession as his team-mates look to pick him out as often as possible.
Facts and figures
- Germany's opening game at the 2014 World Cup against Portugal will be their 100th in the competition – they are the first team to reach that tally in the competition.
- Germany have only lost 1 of their last 18 games in the group stages of the World Cup: against Serbia on June 18, 2010 (0-1), winning 13 and drawing 4.
- Portugal have lost their two games in the World Cup against their opponents in Group G: USA in 2002 and Germany in 2006.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
CR7 to score, but Germany to prove a little too good. 2-1