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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