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Portugal, Not Germany, Will Be Greater Threat to United States at World Cup

The United States have been drawn into a “Group of Death” in the 2014 World Cup. The storylines are plentiful. The USA faces Ghana yet again, this time in its opening match of Group G. The previous two World Cups for the United States have ended after losses to the Ghanaians.

In 2002, the USA under Bruce Arena stunned the world with an opening group game victory over the heavily favored Portuguese. That Portugal side featured a host of world class players but did not have Cristiano Ronaldo who single-handedly led his nation through a tough qualifying process to secure a spot in the World Cup.

Manager Jurgen Klinsmann, who won the 1990 World Cup as a player with Germany, will face his native country in the final group game. Klinsmann also managed Germany in the 2006 World Cup and is given credit for transforming the side into an open, attack-minded team.  Germany is considered one of the favorites next summer.  However, in my opinion Germany is not nearly as strong as many analysts are giving them credit for. I don’t consider them a favorite at this point in time though much could change between now and June.  Defensively they can be had and they have a real question mark up front. Mario Gomez’s injury has left the Germans with problems up top and it is entirely possible they will play without a pure striker.

The German midfield is stacked but selection headaches do await Joachim Low. Still the ability to maintain possession and remain organized is a key to any success the Germans will have.

Portugal is stronger than many are giving them credit for. They are not a one man team and tend to perform better at major tournaments than they do in qualifying. The likes of Pepe, Fábio Coentrão,  and João Moutinho are accomplished top level professionals who can do a job in a major tournament. A Selecção has advanced from the Group Stage of each of the last five major tournaments.

Ghana’s side is younger and potentially stronger than in 2010 but does not have the advantage of playing on African soil. In 2010, the Black Stars were more or less a home team in each match they played in South Africa.  However, this group will be tough for the Ghanaians and they will be firmly viewed as underdogs. Still, Ghana has been the strongest African nation at each of the last World Cups.

The United States have their work cut out for them. In all likelihood they will not advance from this group, but still the group remains accessible and if the favored sides draw with one another, possibilities open up for advancement.

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  1. John

    June 18, 2014 at 12:28 am

    Dafuq I just read

  2. john davenport

    January 12, 2014 at 9:10 am

    seven times world cup has been held in the americas and seven times a south american team has won it. The same as 9 times out of 10 times it has been held in europe, its been a european team that has won, i think those two facts speak for themselfs

  3. Pakapala

    December 10, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    Nowhere in the article did you show how Portugal is a stronger team than Germany, or that should be the team to worry USA more than Germany. Is your argument that because of Klinsmann we should not be too worried about going toe to toe with Germany.

    Granted their defense is not as solid as it used to be and that is their weakest link. However the US haven’t shown that they have the offensive power to exploit Germany’s defense.

  4. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    December 8, 2013 at 6:36 am

    A couple of points regarding my analysis of Germany. In 2008 and 2010 I happened to rate Germany more highly than most pundits, picking them to win both tournaments (and being wrong but getting plaudits for recognizing the youth movement, change in style and integration of ethnic players) and do not think they are that far off the pace setters but a few points here. Spain have beaten Germany en route to two of the three major titles they have won in a row and in the third they beat Italy who eliminated Germany. Spain have won the biggest games on the biggest stage. Germany has not, and has also shown they will drop group stage matches (Croatia in Euro 2008, Serbia World Cup 2010). No German club side or national side has won a major trophy winning game against a non-German side since 2001. Spain has done so regularly. I see many pundits pointing to Bayern’s demolishing of Barca last season but many of Spain’s top contributors do not play for Barca, the Bayern-Barca result a great one for Bayern has little relevance in comparing the national teams and their records of recent accomplishments. When something has been on the line, Germany has generally gone wanting. And this is from someone who fancied them highly, picking them against the laughs of many to win the 2010 World Cup. But in South Africa, Spain took them out of their game and won comfortably even though the scoreline was only 1-0. I read where Germany must be fancied higher than Argentina based on 2010 when the Germans won 4-0 in the quarterfinals. Argentina were in a bad place in 2010. Now they have lots of fresh blood, no management questions, players hitting their peak age wise and a World Cup on South American soil. Brazil’s pedigree and abilities at home speak for itself. I also rate Italy more highly than Germany. Prandelli has transformed the side into a more dynamic, flowing team and they of course ripped Germany in the Euros. The reintegration of Rossi, long injured will make them even more useful and give them the option of playing a 3-5-2 in the World Cup. As for Germany’s other weaknesses, I believe defensive depth is really questionable. As a unit they have been opened up more regularly than other top sides in qualifying. The possible absence of Khedria limits the cover for that back 4 which is susceptible to thru balls and to crosses as shown in both Sweden games and one of the Ireland games. The depth isn’t there on the backline either as the USA’s June friendly win showed when the German second unit defensively was shredded by a US team that was coming off a mauling by Belgium. As for the attack, it is possible a Striker is not needed, but Spain’s titles have generally seen Villa and Torres pop up and do well in spots. Germany will need a fit Gomez and Klose to do well in spots. Or play Gotze/Muller/Schurlee as a false 9? I am not ripping Germany as a useless side but would I rather face Germany than Italy, Spain, Argentina, or Brazil if I were the USA? For sure. Germany has obvious weaknesses and a recent history of losing group games (Croatia in 2008, Serbia in 2010) and big games (Spain 2008, 2010, Italy 2012.). Also Portugal has a history of getting out of group stages of major tournaments as I stated in the piece. Reality either way is the group will be very tough for the USA, but it is IMO far from the toughest group the US could have been drawn into from the Asia/CONCACAF pot. Australia and Costa Rica have it much worse.

    • trickybrkn

      December 8, 2013 at 11:18 am

      But, you didn’t really put any of your story in context. Yes, Portugal always find a way to get past the group stages. In 2006 they had a group of Mexico, Angola and Iran. and that year famously beat England on spot kicks after Wayne Rooney was send out with a Ronaldo wink.
      Last World Cup they where paired with Brazil, North Korea and the Ivory Coast. Just sneaking in past the Ivory Coast after drawing Brazil in the final group match that saw a game with two Portuguese speaking nations looking uninterested in moving the ball anywhere near the net. They then went out in the first knockout match v eventual winner Spain.

      The present squad has, what 4 players from Real Madrid, most of the 23 will have Champions League experience of some sort, Yes they are a quality squad that is always dangerous in tournaments. Are they of the same quality as the Germans? No. Even with Ronaldo doing his best to be a greater Portuguese legend then Eusebio, Portugal have won how many big tournaments? and Germany?

      I think what you wanted to say was that in playing Portugal second, the game will be of greater importance to the USMNT then the German game. The Americans will have to tie some sort of result away from that match if they have any hope of moving forward. If they Win… chances are in the knock out round, if they draw, they need help, a lose… then the Germany match is a run out.

  5. Manschaft

    December 7, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    Kartik we played Ronaldo in 2012 and absolutely stuffed him. We put a working on them in the Euros. Even if our defense is suspect Spain beat us off a corner and well we never beat the Italians. Not getting why you don’t think we are that good. We are co favorites with Brazil and Spain. Our team is loaded in almost every position.

  6. jtm371

    December 7, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    if the USNMT are lucky they will end up with one point.a draw with Ghana.Germany and Portugal will both hammer them.CR7 will have a big day versus the back 4 of USA.

    • Flyvanescence

      December 7, 2013 at 11:14 pm

      Been saying that since the draw. Im hearing “all we need to do is stop Ronaldo”, but id like to know who on the USA is capable of that.
      The obvious answer to that is no one.

  7. Jeff

    December 7, 2013 at 10:34 pm

    Not sure about this article.

    I do not know if Germany or Portugal is the bigger threat to the USA honestly. I believe if the USA plays with the energy they did in qualifying and take advantage of superior fitness and mentality they can beat both these teams.

    The way the US has played with a belief and keeping the ball chances are very good that the USA will win against one of them.

    I watched Germany against Sweden and was not particularly impressed. I watched Portugal against Sweden and they were lucky to win. So I do not think the USA is as far from either team as the author claims.

    Ghana is a mystery and I do not really know what to expect from them.

    This is going to be a South American World Cup and the USA avoided any team from South America. That has to be considered a big plus.

    This group does not scare me.

    • Flyvanescence

      December 7, 2013 at 11:15 pm

      You must be smokin the good stuff. Can you show me where i can get ahold of some?

    • Manschaft

      December 7, 2013 at 11:16 pm

      Ozil, Reus, Muller, Goetze, Lahm, Neur, Gundogan, Bender etc. Germany is stacked. Sweden was a one off game. Altidore, Donovan, and Dempsey don’t scare us so I guess the the feeling is mutual.

      • dionisio pontes

        December 30, 2013 at 11:03 pm

        just a reminder. portugal will be playing indirectly at home.brazil is the home of more than 50million portug. and 80% are portuguese background. history tel ls the french, span. dutch.even the english had problems in that country ps : they speek portuguese in brazil.dino

  8. Flyvanescence

    December 7, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    Germany is freakin stacked.

    When u have Ozil, you can use Muller up top.
    Only Spain or Brazil comes close.

  9. CTBlues

    December 7, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    I wonder if the US can get a draw or pull out a win versus Germany will have any baring on if Julian Green will decide the US over Germany.

  10. nonsense

    December 7, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    Wow! I’m stunned. This author hasn’t a clue.

  11. Smokey Bacon

    December 7, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    Jesus wept! Are you serious? Palace won today. I’m looking forward to your “Palace can qualify for Europe” post. You know you want to write it.

    Never bet against the Germans.

  12. trickybrkn

    December 7, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    was really expecting a lot more with that headline…

  13. abdirahman

    December 7, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    i have never heard that portugal is stronger germany.the best team in europe club and national.they will reach final but will come shorter again against brazil.what a final that is gonna be 13.7.2014 maracana brazil vs germany.

  14. Richard

    December 7, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    Couldn’t agree less. Portugal will be going to the World Cup for one reason, and one reason only: Cristiano Ronaldo. Sweden would have peed all over them had it not been for Ronaldo and they certainly didn’t set the group stage alight during qualifying either, so to say that they’ll be more of a threat than Germany is laughable. Close Ronaldo down and you stand a great chance of winning the game, period. Pepe is a good defender but makes the occasional error and loves his red cards. Coentrão is decent as well but can be easily beaten by quality opponents and Moutinho is inconsistent. Germany have quality all round at the moment and should finish top of the group barring an upset.

    I would agree that Portugal play better at tournaments, but then so do Germany. The US will be fighting for 2nd place in this group and will probably look to Portugal and Ghana as their most winnable matches, despite having beat Germany in a friendly not long ago.

    • Flyvanescence

      December 7, 2013 at 6:01 pm

      Close down Ronaldo. Lol thats a good one. Who on the usa is gonna do that?

    • That Dude

      April 14, 2014 at 2:29 am

      João Moutinho is inconsistent? You certainly don´t know much about that player.. His nickname in Portugal is something like “the guy that doesn’t know how to play bad”

  15. S04th

    December 7, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    A Selecção has advanced from the Group Stage of each of the last five major tournaments.

    And then proceeded to lose to Germany in three of them.

    I wouldn’t dare say Portugal aren’t good, but I also wouldn’t bet on them if they’re playing Die Manschaft.

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