germanyDie Mannschaft enter the 2014 World Cup as one of the favorites, but first they must survive possibly the toughest group in the tournament. The Germans had an almost perfect qualifying run except their 4-4 draw with Sweden. Germany has won three World Cups and with their incredible depth, a fourth is not unexpected. However, a number of challenges stand in their way, including a daunting travel schedule within the group, a more difficult potential schedule than their main competitors, a climate much different than the one they are used to in Europe, and a recent history of being good but not quite good enough.
Joachim Loew is now approaching his tenth year in charge of Die Mannschaft. Despite having overseen the recent renaissance in German football, there are quiet murmurings emerging that suggest it is about time Loew won something with this marvellous crop of footballers.
Loew has fashioned a squad that has a sprinkling of everything. Their first XI is difficult to pick, but that’s because of the riches this German team have in pretty much every position on the pitch.
This German team is blessed with several talented players but there is one who slightly edges other in the absence of injured Marco Reus, Thomas Muller. The Bayern Munich man can play anywhere across the frontline and has an incredible knack of scoring hugely important goals at vital times. He was drafted in as a late starter in the last Word Cup, replacing the injured Michael Ballack. And boy did he impress. Muller won the Golden Boot and the award for best young player at the tournament. Since then, he has gone from strength to strength for club and country.
Their group draw helps Germany to kick start their campaign on a very high and competitive note against Portugal. It’s 24 years since Germany last won the World Cup and the expectation back home is huge but I feel the Germans have one mental hurdle between them and the trophy. They are a sure bet for the semi finals if not the finals. Anything less would be seen as a disaster.


portugalFor the third successive time, Portugal have qualified for a major tournament via the playoffs. The 2006 semi finalist required a Cristiano Ronaldo inspired 4-2 aggregate victory to secure them a place on the plane to Brazil. The Real Madrid forward practically dragged them there, scoring all four goals over the two legs and turning in a pair of stunning displays.
Paulo Bento’s team looks great on paper, but there are still chronic problems which plague this Portuguese team. The back four is pretty settled, but they have regularly struggled to garner a suitable balance in the middle of the pitch.
Nani and Ronaldo provide threat from the wide areas, but questions linger as to whether Helder Postiga has the class to lead the line. This team are a supreme counter attacking outfit. They will sit in their own half and allow teams to come onto them before springing from deep positions and exploiting the space in behind. Miguel Veloso is expected to take up the role of a defensive midfielder but he faces competition from William Carvalho. Raul Meireles is expected to provide balance and experience to this team while Joao Moutinho is the source of creativity in this team.
Portugal have their hopes pin on current Ballon d’Or winner – Cristiano Ronaldo.
Arguably the best player in the world today, Ronaldo has been nothing short of extraordinary over the last few years. CR7 has netted 49 times in 110 games for the Selecção. The former Manchester United man scored 17 goals in the Champions League and 31 in La Liga this season. Fitness permitting, Cristiano will drag his team as far as possible. They should qualify out of the most difficult group alongside Germany.



ghanaGhana were inches away from being the first being the first African side in the semi-finals of a FIFA World Cup four years ago. Luis Suarez and Asamoah Gyan stopped that dream. The Black Stars destroyed the Pharoahs of Egypt during the African qualifying play offs to earn their third consecutive appearance at the World Cup.
It was a result that made people sit up and take note of this side. And Ghana certainly have some players capable of doing some real damage in Brazil. It’s in the midfield, where they have a glut of excellent options. Michael Essien is the most familiar of these names and he always seems to perform when pulling on the Ghanian national shirt. He’s ably supported by the likes of Kwadwo Asamoah, Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng; three players who have played and performed well on some of Europe’s biggest stages in their careers to date. In coach Kwesi Appiah, the West African side have a coach who has worked his way through the Ghanaian ranks, coaching the Black Stars’ Under 23 team to victory in the 2011 All-Africa Games but, more pertinently, acting as assistant coach to the full national side for a number of years before being given the job as first-team coach in 2012.
Asamoah Gyan will represent the Black Stars greatest goal threat once again. As a man who scored more than 30 goals for his club last season, and was regularly on the scoresheet in the South African World Cup, that is not such a surprise. With Gyan being Ghana’s main forward, a lot will depend on his ability to adapt to high-level competition quickly, as the first game Appiah’s side play, against the USA, is pivotal.
Ghana have been placed in a cruel group. Making it out of this group for the third consecutive time will be a huge success. Sadly, the Black Stars will be exiting the competition at the first stage.


United States.

usaAfter losing the first game in the CONCACAF qualifiers, questions arose over Klinsmann’s regime. A win over Costa Rica helped The Stars and Stripes get on track while securing qualification in September with a 2-0 victory over Mexico.
The squad that the United States are expected to take to Brazil are a gritty group, brimming with experience, energy and enormous work-rate. Klinsmann has created a togetherness within this squad which not many teams in this tournament can match .
However, the everlasting problem of a real lack of cutting edge bugs Klinsmann’s team. They are without any real impetus in the final third and don’t have a player with the ability to unlock stubborn defences. Clint Dempsey is a proven goal scorer, but not overly creative or capable of playing that killer pass.
Michael Bradley, the AS Roma midfield enforcer probably typifies the tenacity and industrious nature of this American side more than any other player. He is their key player. Bradley is a player who is making a name for himself as a box-to-box midfielder; consistent in the tackle, a strong runner and neat and tidy in possession . His role will be crucial when the USMNT come up against technically superior sides and he offers a good defensive shield which allows the like of Dempsey to go and effect the game.
Klinsmann’s understands the big competitions, and America’s experience on the World Cup stage will no doubt aid their conquest to escape the “group of death” but the lack of a top class playmaker will see them struggle to progress any further. A group stage exit is almost certain.

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