Daily Cup Check: Previewing Group G
OTF contributor Sam Fels is going group by group with his beer goggles to set you up for this summer of footy fun and love…
The one that means the most to us. Let’s see if I can find some positive feelings. We’re going to have to dig deep…
Group G: USA, Germany, Portugal, Ghana
My ability to delude myself about the Yanks is incredible. Because before 2006 I was convinced they could get out of that group, even though the Czechs were possibly the best team in Euro 2004 and would have won it if Pavel Nedved hadn’t gotten hurt. Moreover, Italy boasted a midfield of Pirlo, Totti, De Rossi, and Gattuso all in their prime, and Ghana had Essien and Appiah in their prime as well. So yeah, heavily deluded is what I may be now, eight years later.
But I don’t have to be that deluded to think they can get out of this group, even though it’s clear Jurgen has decided 2014 is the first step to making real noise in 2018. I think for the first time though, the US is capable of goals even though they’ll start a lone striker without a full European season under his belt. They might let in 12, but they’ll score. I was pretty excited by what I saw from Bradley, Bedoya, Dempsey, and Altidore against an admittedly uninterested Nigeria, buffeted by Kyle Beckerman, who at least knows where to be, unlike Jermaine Jones (who I hate, you should know).
But this defense… oh god. I’m actually not as queasy as some about Geoff Cameron shifting inside, because Stoke just tend to play four centerbacks most of the time anyway. It’s better than Omar Gonzalez, that’s for sure, who should be launched into the sun. Run DMB won’t look like Ashley Cole ’06 on the left, but I doubt he’ll let you down. Despite the positives, they’re all capable of a brain-fart that could be crippling.
I feel like it’s two draws and then a smacking by Germany. Or, maybe two draws sandwiching a thwacking by Ronaldo, as Germany may have already qualified. It could really go anywhere. It feels like the match against Portugal being in Manaus is advantage US, because if anything can blunt an ailing Ronaldo it’s stifling conditions. He may only need one or two runs to wreak havoc, but that might be all he has fuel for. We’ll see.
There are options off the bench. Johansson and Diskerud can change things in midfield or in attack when needed. If Zusi or Bedoya start on the bench, they could too. You worry about how the US will solidify if they’re holding a lead and Beckerman is starting… but it’s a fuck of a lot better than bringing Robbie Findley off the bench. Oh Stu Holden, why couldn’t you not be made of graham crackers?
It’s going to be close. It will not be fun. Is it ever with the US?
If this tournament was taking place last year, it would be seen as the culmination of the domination of German football, much like 2010 is viewed as the crest of the Barcelona Era in Spain. After all, last spring, Germany landed both Champions League finalists, Dortmund and Bayern, who were playing the most exciting football around and had blown away the old standard-bearers Madrid and Barcelona. Their high pressure, relentless attack couldn’t be lived with by the more patient and artful Spanish teams.
A year later and it doesn’t quite feel like that. Dortmund were torn apart by defections and injuries and will continue to be. Munich once again ran away with the Bundesliga, but came up short against Madrid in Europe. They’re still a world power of course, and so is Germany, but it doesn’t have the same gloss as it did a year ago.
Sadly for us Yanks, it doesn’t mean this team isn’t loaded, especially in attack. It feels like they could field two midfields that would be better than just about anyone’s. I still think Podolski is awful, but he can’t stop scoring for his country. Kroos, Schurlle, Ozil, Schweinsteiger, Muller, Draxler, Khedira, Gotze… is this even fair? You, dear reader, could play up front ahead of this midfield and you’d probably score. You don’t even need legs.
I’m not totally sold on the defense, but I’m not sure it’s going to matter. I don’t know how Mertesacker doesn’t get torn apart in the Premier League because he can’t move, and Hummels isn’t enough to cover. But when you score four a game? They’ll still come unstuck in the semifinals, it’s their way now, especially when they face another legitimate attack. But this group can’t hold them.
I want to sit here and say this Portugal team really isn’t all that much. It hasn’t been for years. This isn’t Rui Costa, Joao Pinto, Figo and whatever other mutant in midfield of a decade ago, along with a coming-of-age Ronaldo. It’s a one man team, at least that’s what I want to say. Kind of.
The central defense can be pretty good, though you can get Pepe sent off by simply continuing to intake oxygen. Coentrao can be an adventurous fullback, but can be exposed the other way if you want. We’ve been hearing about Mutinho and Veloso for years, yet we’re still kind of waiting. We know Nani and Almeida and Postiga are shit.
But then… there’s that guy. They’re only here because THAT GUY tore Sweden apart himself. They couldn’t live with him on the counter, and it’s hard to see how Germany or the US or Ghana will either, assuming full health. You tell yourself, “Well, if they keep Ronaldo from scoring…” Yeah, about that. You can’t. It’s basically about holding him to one.
But having said that, Ronaldo hasn’t really lit up an international tournament since he became the centerpiece of the Portugal side–at least since Germany ’06. He only scored against North Korea the last time, and in Euros ’08 and ’12 the side as a whole disappointed. Ronaldo has shrugged off the big-game bottler label he had somewhat gotten at United, scoring freely against Barcelona for years now, but this is the stage where he still hasn’t put it altogether. If that continues, they could be in trouble in this group.
Oh right, The US’s personal reaper. I’m not sure that totally applies. While they were the US’s final group game in ’06, it was that 3-0 loss to the Czechs that did in the Americans. But whatever. Semantics.
I have to ask though, isn’t this the same team as four years ago, but just four years older? It still depends on Gyan, who is playing in the UAE now (though only 28, so…). It still has Michael Essien, who hasn’t really been useful for anyone for two years at least. Sulley Muntari? Decent, but not what he was. Boateng is still scary of course, because pace and strength in the midfield is a worry for the US. There just aren’t a lot of names here that make you take notice, like in the past.
But Ghana are kind of the opposite of Nigeria, where the total is greater than the sum of their parts every time around. We may not know all their players, but they’ll play well. Clearly, the first match is huge for both sides, because Ghana could be down and out after a loss to the US, with Germany waiting next.
I can’t wait for Monday, and at the same time I hope it never gets here.
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