Yes, it’s getting a little boring now. While some seeded teams would get away with some really easy groups – I’m looking at you, Argentina and Belgium – Germany would again end up with a stinker. In short, yet another Group of Death full of familiar-looking foes. I guess I will have to wait another four years for that game against Algeria, and an opportunity to avenge the humiliation of 1982.
So, as we approach the start this great festival of football, here’s the lowdown on the Nationalmannschaft’s three group rivals.
Portugal (16.06.2012, Salvador)
As at Euro 2012, Germany’s first opponents are Portugal – a team largely defined by one man, world footballer of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo. Since the humiliation of Rotterdam in 2000 Germany have come out on top in all three meetings since – including that tight encounter in L’viv settled by a late Mario Gómez header.
Head to Head Record
Overall, the Nationalmannschaft have played Portugal a total of seventeen times – winning nine, drawing five and losing three. There has been only one meeting between the two countries at the World Cup finals, when as tournament hosts the Germans would triumph 3-1 in the third-place play off with Bastian Schweinsteiger scoring a memorable brace. The most recent meeting between the two teams would of course be that nerve-jangling 1-0 win at Euro 2012.
Germany have a slightly better overall record in competitive fixtures: in nine matches they have won four, drawn three and lost two. One of these defeats would take place in Stuttgart in October 1985, when the Portuguese became the first team to beat any German team in a World Cup qualifying match.
Portugal would finish behind Russia in their qualifying group, putting them in the play-offs against Sweden – who had finished second behind Germany in their group. A hard-fought 4-2 aggregate win over the Swedes would see Paulo Bento’s team book their passage to Brazil, and would enter the draw ranked thirteen. Since then they have climbed to fourth in the world rankings – indicating their status as a team in form.
In four pre-tournament warm-up games the Portuguese would thrash Cameroon 5-1 in Leiria and play out a far more competitive 0-0 draw against Greece in Lisbon, before beating Mexico 1-0 in the US city of Foxborough and handing out an emphatic 5-1 thrashing to an admittedly experimental Republic of Ireland side at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford. With seven wins and one draw from their last eight matches, the Portuguese are in excellent shape.
Last eight matches (latest first): WWDWWWWW
Portugal have a number of talented players, but the one that stands out above the rest is the talented but wonderfully annoying Ronaldo. As well as being an irritating permatanned, strutting fashion model and professional wind-up merchant, the Real Madrid CF playmaker also happens to be a very good footballer – which only makes him doubly irritating.
Other notables include Man United youngster Nani, Chelsea’s cockerel-lookalike Raul Meireles and the truly obnoxious Pepe who if treated correctly is ripe for a red card.
In short, nothing has changed much since Euro 2012.
Ghana (21.06.2014, Fortaleza)
Ghana (ranked 38th) are not unfamiliar opponents for Germany, with the two teams being placed in the same first phase group for the second tournament in a row. As in South Africa in 2010, the meeting will see the brothers Boateng – Germany’s Jérôme and Ghana’s Kevin-Prince competing against each other.
Head to Head Record
There have been just three meetings between the two countries: Germany would win the first encounter 6-1 in 1993, and the second meeting at the World Cup in 2010 would see a far more competitive encounter. A stunning winner from Mesut Özil would settle the issue, though both sides would progress through to the knock-out stages.
Ghana’s form coming into the tournament had been patchy, with a 1-0 defeats against Montenegro and a strong Netherlands side. However, in their final warmup game against fellow finalists South Korea at Miami Gardens would see the Black Stars romp to a convincing and confidence-boosting 4-0 win.
Last eight matches (latest first): WLLLWWWD
Like most of the African teams, Ghana have that potent mix of power and skill. As in 2010 where they would be a whisker away from reaching the semi-finals their star man is striker Asamoah Gyan, while German-born Kevin-Prince Boateng will be in Brazil to resume his on-off international career.
Other names to watch include the talented striker Abdul Majeed Waris and versatile French-born winger André Ayew, who at the age of twenty-four will be playing in his second World Cup.
United States (26.06.2014, Recife)
While Ghana sees the clash of the Boateng brothers, the Mannschaft’s final group match sees coach Jogi Löw take on his former boss Jürgen Klinsmann. With the US squad (ranked 13th) containing a number of German-born players including a number of former youth internationals, it promises to be an interesting contest.
Head to Head Record
Germany and the United States have met nine times previously, with the Mannschaft holding the upper hand with six victories and three defeats. The latest meeting between the two sides would see what was effectively a German B-Team slide to a 4-3 defeat in Washington DC, as US coach Klinsmann would get one up on his former assistant Löw.
In major tournament competition the two countries have met twice. The first meeting at the 1998 World Cup would see Germany triumph 2-0 in the group phase – with one of the goals scored by the current US coach – but four years later things would be far tougher for the Mannschaft as they scraped a 1-0 quarter-final win. There have been two other minor tournament encounters: the first game between the two countries in the US Cup in 1993 would see the Germans edge it in a seven-goal thriller in Chicago, while six years later at the Confederations Cup in 1999 – also held in Brazil – the US would register a 2-0 win over a poor German side.
After a patchy start to 2014 Klinsmann’s side come into the tournament in a rich vein of form, having won all three of their warm-up matches. Having registered a 2-0 win over Azerbaijan in San Francisco Team USA would defeat Turkey in Harrison, New Jersey. Their most recent and arguable most testing pre-tournament match would result in a well-executed 2-1 win over fellow tournament finalists Nigeria.
Last eight matches (latest first): WWWDLWLD
There is a very German feel about the US team this time around, and this has plenty to do with the coach. Having left record goalscorer Landon Donovan out of his final twenty three, there will be plenty of responsibility left with the likes of Jozy Altidore and FC Bayern München’s promising young winger Julian Green. Former German youth international Fabian Johnson has established himself of the US defence, while midfield enforcer Jermaine Jones – capped three times for the Nationalmannschaft before switching his allegiance – will be looking to get one over on some of his former team mates.