What we learned from the group G opening games.
On the strength of their opening game against Portugal, all evidence suggests that Germany will swagger their way through the group very much in the same way that Slash swaggers his way out of the desert chapel to lay down his guitar solo in Guns n Roses November Rain music video.
Lowe appears to have adopted a similar philosophy to Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich in the way his team have clearly been instructed to keep possession for long periods in the final third, while switching wings in attempt to tire out their opponents, yet appear to have a little bit more purpose about them than Bundesliga champions with the likes of Mezut Ozil and Mario Gotze providing the incisive passing needed to unlock opposition defenses.
One weakness, which looks like it may derail the German’s chances, is the general immobility of their defense, and little seems to have been done to remedy the thrashing they endured at the hands of Mario Balotelli and Italy. There is of course no shame in struggling against Ronaldo, but Jerome Boateng looked particularly vulnerable when the Balon d’Or winner was running at him with pace. This is certainly something Ghana will be looking to exploit.
Portugal appear to have come to the end of the road with their current crop of players, and with the injuries of Fabio Coentrao and Hugo Almeida, the suspension of Pepe, and a Ronaldo lacking a bit of match sharpness, the USMNT couldn’t have chosen a better time to play the Portuguese outfit.
With pace and power evident throughout the entire team, Ghana always look capable of causing an upset, but it is perhaps the disparity in quality between their stars and the supporting cast which will ultimately prevent them from escaping the group. Having said all that, a surprise win against the Germans would make for an exciting climax to the group.
And finally, what a start for the USMNT, who just keep winning. Jurgen Klinsman couldn’t have been happier with his team after going 1-0 up in just half a minute, but was made to suffer somewhat for the remaining 89 minutes as the USMNT just seemed unfamiliar at times with the concept of keeping possession. Klinsman’s team couldn’t be faulted for their industry, but as the tournament wears on his team have got to find a way of economizing their efforts.
So how does the USMNT get out of the group? Well, providing Portugal go on to defeat a Ghana team with nothing left to play for in their last game of the group, all the USA really need to do is avoid losing against Portugal, and being heavily beaten by a German side that would have already finished top of the group, and therefore unwilling to risk injury or suspension. We’re likely to see Joachim Lowe field a weakened side in the last game, which might just provide an opportunity for the USMNT to get a vital point.
The USMNT by no means has to park the bus this Sunday, but it is important that they understand that they don’t have to try and win the game at the risk of losing it.