By Rob McDonald

(Neil’s note – Rob sent this in before the games were played. I should have thrown it up yesterday. Sorry.)

GERMANY

What We Know:
Under the stewardship of Jogi Low, Germany have seemed to go from strength to strength in and inexorable march towards glory. Except. Well, it doesn’t feel like Germany are still on the rise. We all know what comes after a rise: a decline. That sounds bonkers, though. This is a team still filled with wonderful – young – talent and should be in the reckoning.

What They Could Be:
A less pretentious Bayern Munich. A more likeable Barcelona. A more direct Spain. They can be as elegant and fanciful as anyone on their day with some of the best attacking talent around, even without Marco Reus. There remains a potential weakness in defence but when you can boast such a resplendent force going forward, that doesn’t always need to matter.

What They’ll Probably Be:
Limited by injuries. They all build up. Ilkay Gungodan, Sami Khedira only just returning from injury, a half-fit Bastian Schweinsteiger and an injured Reus all cause problems. Low may be tempted to move Lahm into midfield to help compensate, but he’d know this would in turn weaken an already shaky defence with Jerome Boateng and Benedikt Howedes potentially both having to play out of position because of it. The loss of Reus can’t be underestimated, either. For the plethora of attacking talent available, it is Reus whose form shone so brightly this season and his incision could be missed greatly.

The Player To Talk About With Phil Blundell:
Any of them, probably.

PORTUGAL

What We Know:
It’s easy to underestimate Portugal. It’s easy to deride them (HAHAH HELDER POSTIGA). There is something here, though, don’t doubt it. They have the best player in the world (Pepe) and their strength lies in a very good defence and midfield. We all know where the problem lies and that is the fact that Ronaldo is the only top quality attacking threat that Portugal has (HAHAHAH HUGO ALMEIDA). He is capable, though.

What They Could Be:
The surprise. Everyone expects Portugal to qualify from this group but they are capable of beating Germany and they are capable of winning this group. They are capable of more. Much more. They could claim quite a few scalps to add to Pepe’s night stand. They could also be filthy.

What They’ll Probably Be:
That’s a question for Mr. Ronaldo, really. And that’s the problem. He dominates them too much and if he doesn’t perform they could be frustrated.

The Player To Talk About With Phil Blundell:
Joao Moutinho who is much better than Xavi now.

GHANA

What We Know:
The Black Stars came within a hand’s breadth of the semi-finals last time around and will be looking to achieve similar feats this time around. A tough group means that they will do well to make it into the knock outs this time around, however.

What They Could Be:
A team for all of Africa.

What They’ll Probably Be:
Out at the group stage, despite having one of the most talented teams to come out of Africa in years.

The Player To Talk About With Phil Blundell:
An Ayew, probably. Everyone loves an Ayew.

USA

What We Know:
The controversy of Landon Donovan’s omission from the squad overshadowed the States’ preparation, not helped by Klinsmann Jnr basically lolling at it on the internet, but USA come into the tournament with a weaker squad than in previous tournaments. Reliant on the same players as in previous tournaments supplemented by domestically based players and a smattering of Europe-based players.

What They Could Be:
Explosive.

What They’ll Probably Be:
Quiet.

The Player To Talk About With Phil Blundell:
Pfftt.

Consent management powered by Real Cookie Banner