Word has come down that United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) forward Jozy Altidore will not be available for the Group G match against Portugal in the FIFA World Cup. Altidore suffered a strained hamstring in the first half of the win over Ghana. US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann would prefer to have the forward available for the next match, however with Portugal suffering injuries and a suspension of Pepe for the game against the USMNT, a win could allow Altidore recover. The forward may be available to the team as early as the final group game against Germany.
Portugal finally received a decision on the red card suspension of defender Pepe for the head but of Germany’s Thomas Müller. Portugal feared a potential three match penalty for Pepe due to the nature of the foul. FIFA responded with a single match suspension taking the defender out of the line-up for the game only, which is against the USMNT on Sunday. The news is positive for the Portuguese squad. If the team can come together and earn a win or draw against the USA, the chances to continue past group play into the knockout stage remains a possibility. The real question for Portugal is still the status of Cristiano Ronaldo.
After Altidore was ruled out for the match against Portugal in the next Group G fixture for the USMNT, fear arose among the faithful American fans that Ronaldo could run all over the US squad. However, ongoing struggles with a left leg injury have forced Ronaldo to continually leave training sessions early. The reoccurring knee issues to the top player in the world offers a bit of daylight to the American team. Combined with the other injuries that have hit the team and the suspension of Pepe could be the advantage over Portugal to continue in the FIFA World Cup.
German fans hoping to see Miroslav Klose pass Brazil’s legend Ronaldo in total goals scored in the FIFA World Cup may be out of luck. German head coach Joachim Loew may not go out of his way to give veteran striker opportunity to tie or pass Ronaldo. Klose, who has 14 goals over his World Cup career, trails the Brazilian by one goal. Leading up to the first game against Portugal, the expectation was that Klose would start. The 36-year old is Germany’s only true striker on the 23-man squad. Instead, Klose stayed on the bench the entire game. Loew does not see the record as an important part of the tournament. The German coach is focused on eating the first title since 1990 for the nation and not on individual records. This may be the last tournament for the striker and besides the possibility of not seeing a chance to pass Ronaldo, Klose has competition for the title on the team with him. With the hat trick against Portugal, Thomas Müller is positioning himself for a possible run past Klose and Ronaldo for the record. Müller found the net five times in South Africa in 2010 and added has three more goals after the first game of the 2014 tournament and should close in on his teammates total goals as the games continue.
Germany’s opponent for Saturday was able to escape severe injuries like the rest of the Group G teams. However, Ghana has suffered a drop in popularity. Leading up to the game, sales of Black Stars paraphernalia were increasing all through Ghana. Following the loss to the USMNT on Monday sales have dropped well below expectations. Sellers had stocked shelves and roadside markets with a number of flags and jersey’s for the national team with the expectations that the team would defeat the US for a third straight time, driving sales through the roof. Instead, customers seem to be ignoring the team products. While a win against Germany seems unlikely, Ghanaian retailers are anticipating the Black Stars to bounce back from the loss to the USA and sales to rebound substantially.
Group G earned the early moniker as the group of death, specifically for the United States. With the USMNT surviving the game against Ghana with Altidore the only major casualty, the team struggles Portugal is suffering have opened up the door for the USA. If the US wins on Sunday, Portugal would be knocked out of the tournament. A Germany win on Saturday would end the Black Stars campaign. The only hope for either Portugal or Ghana to keep their FIFA World Cup hopes alive is to tie or win the next games.
Commentary by Carl Auer