As the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament begins with Brazil and Croatia, the teams in Group G are deep into the thick of preparing for play. Injuries are looking to play an important role with Germany and Portugal. A reoccurring injury hitting a player in one of the top teams may open the door for the USA or Ghana to come storming out of the group of death.
In Sao Paulo, The United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) was set to face the Belgium National team in a warm up scrimmage on Thursday. However, fearing the horrible traffic in Sao Paulo with the kick-off game and festivities combined with the public transit troubles the city has faced recently, the Belgium coach canceled the scrimmage. This left the USMNT with only inter squad practices. New England Revolution defender A.J. Soares has high hopes for the US squad. After a victory over Nigeria, who is the current African champion, Soares commented in a radio interview in Boston that the US should have no problems with Ghana. However Ghana has bounced the USA from the previous two World Cup’s. Soares feels that with a win over the Black Stars to start the tournament, the US lads have a good chance to move out of group play.
A good run by the USMNT in Brazil will benefit Major League Soccer (MLS). Soares mentioned in the interview that if the USA has a good showing, the surge in soccer interest and popularity in MLS will grow. It is easier said than done for the US team. The World Cup brings out a the best in some teams and is one of the reasons that the United States should concentrate on getting a victory over Ghana before looking at a run. After Ghana, the other two teams in the group are two of the top four teams in the world and the task in front of the Americans will not be an easy one.
The Ghana National Team is riding an emotional high after defeating the South Koreans, were the last tournament team to arrive in Brazil. The FIFA World Cup welcomed the delegation from Ghana led by the country’s Football Association President, Kwesi Nyantakyi. The squad has now taken up residence in Maceio and will officially begin training today at the Estadio Rei Pele. The team hopes to keep the positive emotions through the practice sessions until the Black Stars begin their Group G play against the Americans on Monday.
The German National Team coach Joachim Loew is feeling more positive as the game against Portugal nears. Loew announced that goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is healthy and will start in Monday’s game. In other good news for the German team, captain Philipp Lahm will also be in the line-up, despite struggling with an ankle injury. However, Lahm will likely be repositioned from the back four to a midfield position. It is doubtful how much coverage of Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo the captain will be tasked with, if any. Portugal is expected to capitalize on Germany’s injury issues and may adjust their attack to gain a potential advantage over the number two team in the world.
Portugal, like the Black Stars, are coming into the World Cup on an emotional high. Not only did the team decimate Ireland in the final friendly before the tournament, Ronaldo appears to be back with little to no sign of the injuries that have been plaguing the top player in the world during the lead up to Brazil. Having a healthy Ronaldo places Portugal near the top of the favorites to win the entire tournament.
With four more days until the tournament begins for Group G, all four teams will be deep into training with hopes of making strong runs. The health of Ronaldo and the German National Team will be closely watched over the next few days as the teams begin the quest to take home the FIFA World Cup.
Commentary by Carl Auer