Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Group G Update

An image that still makes me sad. Go Black Stars. Photo from telegraph.co.uk
The first day of action for Group G may turn out to be the most important of them all. The day began with Germany's shocking demolition of Portugal. The fact that they won the game wasn't so surprising to me, it was rather the dominant fashion in which they did it. their defense was stifling and didn't allow Cristiano Ronaldo to get anything going. On the other side, great passing led to four goals, including a hat trick by Thomas MΓΌller.

It ended with the United States exacting revenge on Ghana for knocking them out of the last two World Cups by beating them 2-1, with their first goal coming 34 seconds in off the foot of Clint Dempsey. As a Ghanaian-American, I'm still upset by the result of that game. I was feeling good for about four minutes after Dede Ayew tied the game up, but then the newest American superhero, John Brooks won the game. It effectively knocks Ghana out of the tournament, barring a miracle.

That miracle would be coming away with a draw against Germany in their next match, then beating Portugal. It's not totally impossible, given that the Ghanaian coach makes better tactical decisions and puts Kevin-Prince Boateng in the starting lineup, but it's certainly not probable. The Ghanaian defense isn't terribly strong, so it would be hard to contend with the Germans and their passing. However, if they use their speed on the attack they can put a lot of pressure on the strong German defense that will feature a hobbled Jerome Boateng, facing off against his brother in their second straight World Cup. They will also be missing Mats Hummels entirely due to an injury suffered against Portugal.

As for Ghana beating the Portugese, I remain hopeful because of how awful they looked against Germany in their opening match. Ronaldo didn't touch the ball much, and when he did, he wasn't playing up to his normal level. It seems that his injuries are going to affect him throughout the tournament. Other than him, they looked pretty out of sorts as a whole.

Portugal finds themselves in an interesting position. They still have a very good chance of winning their next two matches and advancing, but there's also a real possibility that they'll go home early. They can't lose to the USA in their second match, as that would effectively eliminate them, regardless of their result against Ghana. Should they draw, the match against Ghana becomes a must win. Should they beat the USA without Pepe, Fabio Coentrao, nor Hugo Almeida, they'll be in a good position to be the runner up in the group.

The biggest match in the group from this point might end up being Germany against Ghana, which seems ridiculous. The group's favorite against seemingly the worst team in this Group of Death will determine a lot. Should Ghana channel their magic and make sure that they don't go away quietly, holding Germany to a draw, then the USA has a lot of work to do in the next match to do the same. If, as expected, Germany wins and eliminates Ghana, which will mean the end of Akwasi Appiah's reign as the Ghanaian coach, then Germany would have little to play for against the USA. The goal differential is already so heavily in their favor that even if the Americans defeat Portugal, all Germany would need is a draw to advance to the next stage as the winners of Group G. They could likely play their B team and play for a draw.

The USA can still advance with a loss versus, especially with Portugal's goal differential already at -4, most likely giving the Americans the advantage if the two teams are tied for second in the group. But, a draw or even a win gives them a huge advantage.

Germany's still easily the class of the group, and it's hard to find any scenario in which they don't win the group. Other than that, the race for second place has been made very interesting. The USA is firmly in the driver's seat as of now, but things are subject to change.

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