Group G play in the 2014 FIFA World Cup began on Monday and the results confirmed the soccer world of German dominance and to not overlook the avenging Americans. The German national team holds lead over the United States squad in goals after the demolition of Portugal 4-0. In the final game of the day, the young squad from the States earned the team’s first ever victory over Ghana, 2-1.
The status of Untied States National Men’s Team (USMNT) forward Jozy Altidore is an important question, and is currently still unknown. Early in the first half of the game against Ghana, Altidore was streaking down the sideline with the ball when the American grabbed his left hamstring and went down to the pitch. Altidore had to be carried off of the field and is expected to have the injury evaluated later Tuesday. If Altidore has to miss the next game or is out of the World Cup with the injury, US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann may regret his decision to cut Landon Donovan from the squad.
Numerous injuries seemed to be creeping up on the USMNT during the game against the Black Stars from Ghana. Beside Altidore, Matt Besler left the game at halftime with a hamstring issue that the team wanted to ensure would not get any worse. While other USMNT players were seen limping around during the match, Clint Dempsey took a kick to the face during a challenge for the ball and suffered a broken nose. All of the injuries that the American team suffered in the first ever win over Ghana may come back to haunt Klinsmann when the team faces a deflated Portugal team next.
Prior to the American team avenging the loss to Ghana that knocked the US out of the last World Cup, Germany demolished the Cristiano Ronaldo led Portugal team. The match between teams ranked as two of the top five in the world by FIFA was anticipated to be one of the best matches of the tournament. However, the game quickly became a battle of man against machine. The man, Ronaldo, could not pull his team together and in the opening Group G game, the German machine capitalized on the lack of Portugal unity. To make things worse for the Portuguese team, defender Pepe lost his cool and head butted German Thomas Müller and was issued a red card. Pepe will miss the next match against the USMNT, and may be facing a three game suspension. If Portugal can not find a way past the surging American team, Pepe’s World Cup may have ended in the first match.
With Portugal facing the USMNT next without Pepe, and striker Hugo Almeida out with an injury along with defender Fábio Coentrão for at least the next match, Ronaldo and team may be facing an early exit to the World Cup. Group G was initially labeled as the group of death for the Americans squad with two world top ranked teams and the perpetual thorn of the Black Stars. Now the tables seemed to have turned and Portugal may be facing the tough task to escape the group of death.
Ghana played a good game against the USA, almost holding on for a draw. Now sitting with Portugal at no points going into the next game against the dominating German team, the Black Stars will need to have a perfect performance to hope to earn any points. While the Black Stars we able to tie the USMNT, and hold on to the bitter end until the game winning US goal by John Brooks, the team did not appear disciplined at all. The Ghana team was aggressive, but against the precision play from Germany, the Stars will need more than the prayers of their home nation to see any success in game two.
Now that the American lads have avenged the 2010 loss to Ghana and Portugal looks to be in the process of self-destructing, Group G looks much more survivable for the USMNT. The success still hangs on injuries. If Ronaldo can pull together the remaining members of the Portugal team and injuries keep key players out of the USA line-up, the United States may see a fight to earn any points from the second game of the FIFA World Cup. Ghana is facing a mountain to climb with Germany and are likely going to see the team’s second loss of the tournament.
Commentary by Carl Auer