FIFA World Cup Group G, or the group of death, consisting of Germany, Portugal, the USA and Ghana are gearing up for the tournament in Brazil that begins Thursday. The group has the potential to provide soccer fans with some of the best games of the tournament with Germany facing off against Portugal and Ghana stepping on the pitch against the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT).
Germany made it to Brazil on Sunday and is deep into preparation for the first match up against the number three ranked team in the world, Portugal. The coaching staff for Germany, who is ranked second in the world, was forced to change the final roster due to an injury to midfielder Marco Reus. Reus injured an ankle in the teams final friendly against Mainz Friday, forcing Coach Joachim Löw to chose defender Shkodran Mustafi from Sampdoria as a replacement. Mustafi will have a lot of work over the next few days to get up to speed with the rest of the German National Team to become a positive addition to the squad in the quest to hoist the World Cup trophy into the air for the first time since 1990.
The USMNT has also arrived in Brazil and set up camp in Sao Paulo. The team will run two practices Tuesday before the mandatory open practice on Wednesday. On Thursday the US boys have a scrimmage set up against Belgium. It will be mainly a practice for the USMNT, however, if the team can escape group play, Belgium is a potential opponent in the knockout stage of the tournament. On Friday the team is planning on a brief training session before heading to Natal where the team will meet rival Ghana on Monday afternoon to kick off the USA’s World Cup experience.
Germany and the USMNT are the only squads from the Group of Death to arrive in Brazil so far. The teams from all the groups are slowly trickling in ahead of the start of the FIFA World Cup. The rest of the teams from group G have been preparing in the United States prior to making the final jump to South America and setting up camp.
Ghana will leave Miami, Florida for Brazil after claiming a 4-0 victory in a friendly against South Korea Monday night. Jordan Ayew led the Black Stars with a hat trick in the team’s final tune up before the tournament starts on Thursday. The Ghanaian government has high hopes for the Black Stars squad and is in the process of airlifting 500 fans from the African nation to Brazil to cheer on the national team. Ghana has been a thorn in the side of the USMNT in previous World Cups and the team believes that even though the squad is the lowest ranked team in the group, the Black Stars will survive and move into the knock-out stage.
Cristiano Ronaldo and the Portugal National Team are currently in New York for the final friendly before the tournament starts. The team will face off against Ireland Tuesday night at MetLife Stadium before heading to Brazil. The health of Ronaldo is a hot topic of discussion currently as the top player in the world is battling with tendonitis in his left leg. This has forced Ronaldo out of the last two friendlies and it is unclear if the 50,000 fans at the game tonight will see the star make an appearance on the pitch. Portugal has already planned on giving Ronaldo a needed rest against Ghana during group play. With the team facing Germany on Monday, the world will watch closely to see if Portugal will struggle in group play with a lame Ronaldo.
Group G play originally looked to be tough for the USMNT, however, with the health of Portugal’s team, the United States squad may find the task to escape the group of death not quite as impossible as first thought. The USA will need Germany to win over Portugal to kick off group play. The Stars and Stripes will then need to earn the teams first ever win over Ghana to have any hope of moving forward in the FIFA World Cup. Ronaldo at less than full health could bode well for both Ghana and the USA and may be the deciding factor on if the Black Stars move into the knock-out stage or if the lads wearing the red, white and blue can find success with a young roster.
Commentary by Carl Auer