USMNT: A Look at the Enemy IV
With only one match left in group play, OTF’s Juan Santoliva gives some insight on USMNT’s group G opponents…
Germany vs Ghana
Germany and Ghana traded shots in an intense 2-2 tie on Saturday. The result kept both teams alive with Germany at the top of Group G and Ghana in third.
Germany: The game was noticeably big for the Germans, with Per Mertesaker earning his 100th cap and Miroslav Klose scoring his 15th World Cup goal, tying the tournament record with Ronaldo of Brazil.
Klose, who is playing in his fourth World Cup, came on as a substitute for Mario Goetze, Germany’s other scorer, and used his very first touch to bury the ball into the back of the net after Benedict Howedes headed it down and into his path.
It was hard to gather anything in the first half with the Germans just patiently holding on to the ball and getting a feel for the game. It wasn’t that Die Mannschaft couldn’t do anything going forward, it was that they wouldn’t.
Ghana’s counter-attacks showed just how rocky Germany’s defense can be when faced with a sudden change of pace. This is a small crack in Germany’s armor, but it’s hard to expose it when most teams are too busy chasing the ball around in the midfield.
Ghana: The Ghanaians showed just how quick and powerful they could be when going forward. Even after going down a goal after 50 minutes of back and forth scoreless play, Andre Ayew rose above a static German defense and knocked in the tying goal.
Ghana was resilient and continued attacking. It was admirable and I even found myself rooting for them as they continually broke down Germany’s defense.
Asamoah Gyan finally gave the Black Stars a shock lead after a great one-touch trap and shot. Sulley Muntari hustled down the right side and found Gyan with a inch-perfect pass.
The Germans just looked confused and gave the ball away far too many times in their own half, but credit has to be given to the Ghanaians for pushing forward.
Injuries: Germany: What turned out to be a frustrating day for the Germans turned worse when Thomas Muller suffered a head injury late in stoppage time.
The Bayern Munich midfielder went up to contest a header with defender John Boye and ended up taking a shoulder to the face, leaving half his face covered in blood.
The severity of the injury is unknown but the team will need Muller back on the pitch in order to put Germany in the best position to qualify for the knockout stages.
Right back Jerome Boateng was subbed at the half with what Joachim Low called a hip injury.
“It’s difficult to say. He got hit on the hip and then the muscle was overstretched during one sprint and we substituted him because he would not have been able to play any longer,” said Low, who indicated that the instruction to sub him out came from the team doctor.
Ghana: Michael Essien remained out of the starting 11 after injuring his toe against the United States.
Old age and lack of playing time makes it hard for me to see him recovering fast enough for the clash against Portugal, but I’m no doctor.
Germany: The Germans have to face a tough United States squad Thursday with everything on the line. With so many scenarios in play, it’s hard to see Germany not making it out of the group in first place.
Low will want to nip this game in the bud early and give any able starters the chance to have a go. The Americans have showed their “never back down” attitude but its still tough to face such a talented German side when everything is up for grabs.
Three points for Germany (even though I’m still hoping for at least a tie. GO USA!)
Ghana: The same holds true for Ghana when they face a desperate Portuguese side. While they don’t control their own destiny, they will look to do whatever possible.
The Black Stars will look to expose Portugal the same way they did with Germany. Constant counterattacks and physical aerial battles.
The Ghanaians are just as prideful as the Americans and will push high in order to get the win and beat out the U.S. on goal differential.
A not-so-great defense will hurt both teams so I think we’ll see a tie.
Portugal vs United States
One team was so close to advancing while the other was getting ready to pack its bags. Portgual attacker Silvestre Varela decided he wanted to stay a little longer, heading one past Tim Howard in the dying moments to salvage a 2-2 draw on Sunday.
A horrible clearance from Geoff Cameron led to a Nani rocket five minutes into the game, but that would be the only goal in the first half.
The second half produced a little bit more for the fans. Jermaine Jones launched a rocket to even things up and then Clint Dempsey bellied one into the net to take the lead. All seemed lost for Portugal, but Varela changed that and gave the Portugese a lifeline, for now.
I don’t know if it was Portugal’s offense lacking or the United States’ defense being dominant, but Portugal had no real input in this match. They were outplayed and didn’t look like they wanted any part of the match, even after going up a goal.
Cristiano Ronaldo had decent chances but scuffed all of them into the crowd, except the assist to Varela. The team has talent, but it fails to be creative and push forward as a unit. There are too many individuals and not enough team players.
Coach Paulo Bento says it best, “It’s clearly not a good result for us. The 2-2 doesn’t put us out of the World Cup mathematically, but it does leave us in a very difficult situation. Now all we can do is to give everything in our very last game and try and make the most of the very little chance that we have left.”
One defender, Fabio Coentrao, is done for the World Cup, but another, Pepe, is returning after getting a foolish red card in Portugal’s first match against Germany.
Pepe will help solidify the back line and can cause problems on corners.
But he’ll most likely just look to get another stupid card.
Portugal will have to make up a very hefty goal differential against Ghana if it hopes to advance out of the group.
Ronaldo will have to actually finish his chances and Portugal’s midfield will have to contain any counterattacks Ghana might throw their way.
Both teams are fighting to stay alive, which is why a 2-2 draw will be a continuing trend within the group.
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OTF’s Juan Santoliva will keep you updated on the latest matches, injuries and other shenanigans from the USMNT’s group opponents. Follow him @jsants90.