World Cup Day 5: A Look Ahead

Clint Dempsey

Photo by ISIPhotos.com

By DAN KARELL

The big day we’ve been waiting for has finally arrived.

Since learning the World Cup draw on Dec. 6, U.S. Men’s National Team fans have been counting down the days to Monday, when the USA will take on arch-nemesis Ghana at the Arena Das Dunas in Natal (6 p.m. ESPN). It’s a new-look USMNT squad compared to the last two World Cups, with head coach Jurgen Klinsmann picking a 23-man roster known for its technical skill as much as its overall fitness and work rate.

However, Ghana is a side with a good mix of young and old players, many of whom are playing in some of the top leagues in Europe. Brothers Jordan and Andre Ayew are expected to have a big impact, as are veterans Michael Essien, Asamoah Gyan, and Kevin-Prince Boateng.

While it’s still up in the air what kind of formation Klinsmann will put out, there’s no doubt that Monday’s match will bring with it the same drama and excitement we’ve seen from the first four days of the 2014 World Cup.

Here are some more notes ahead of today’s World Cup action:

GERMANY vs. PORTUGAL

Two of Europe’s top teams face off to open Group G in steamy conditions at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador (12 p.m. ESPN).

Germany is looking to build off back-to-back semifinal appearances at the World Cup but faces a difficult opener with Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal. Germany coach Joachim Löw has come under a lot of criticism in the last 12 months and lost one of his best players, Marco Reus, to an ankle injury in Die Manschafft’s final warm-up friendly.

Portugal has been boosted by the fact that Ronaldo says he’s 100 percent fit, despite still dealing with left knee tendonitis. Since Ronaldo almost single-handedly put Portugal into the World Cup, it’s important for him to prove his fitness in his nation’s opening match. Without Ronaldo, Portugal struggled in its first two warm-up matches against Greece and Mexico.

While this looks to be a great matchup on paper, both teams will probably play conservatively. Temperatures in Salvador at noon are expected to be hovering around 80 degrees Fahrenheit and 74 percent humidity.

IRAN vs. NIGERIA

The middle game of Monday’s World Cup action takes place in the cooler climate of Curitiba, with Iran facing defending African Cup of Nations champion Nigeria (3 p.m. ESPN).

Iran surprised many in its qualification campaign, which concluded with a clinching 1-0 victory at South Korea, and they’re coached by experienced Portuguese boss Carlos Quieroz. The team relies on a number of dual-nationals like many other national teams around the world, including speedy forward Reza Ghoochannejhad (Netherlands), midfielder Ashkan Dejagah (Germany), and defender Steven Beitashour (USA).

Beitashour is aiming to go from his first camp with Iran last October to starting their World Cup opener eight months later.

Nigeria will be a difficult team to stop, though, with Shola Ameobi playing the front of the attack and talented midfielders John Obi Mikel, Ahmed Musa, and Victor Moses all supporting. Nigeria failed to put together a full 90 minute performance in its warm-up friendlies. Now at the World Cup, Stephen Keshi’s side hopes that it has worked out the kinks and can get its tournament started with a win to keep pace with Argentina in Group E.

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What do you think of today’s slate of matches? What do you think are the key factors for the USA against Ghana? Do you believe Germany and Portugal can put on a good performance in the heat? Do you expect Iran to trouble Nigeria?

Share your thoughts below.

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8 Responses to World Cup Day 5: A Look Ahead

  1. BookNerd says:

    Today is the day we finally get a chance at redemption. We put our differences aside on Klinsmann, dual nationals, and Donovan to support our team!

    Man, the Boateng Vs Jones and Johnson matchup is what I am looking forward to. Should be a real attacking match. Hopefully, the pitch is in good condition.

  2. Gordoninho says:

    Ich glaube dass wir gewinnen werden! Ich glaube dass wir gewinnen werden!

  3. Chip S. says:

    Been waiting 4 years for today!… Words fail to express my anticipation… Even if you don’t love (or even like) the beautiful game, this is YOUR team, America. Your national team who are about to embark on an arduous journey taking on some of the world’s best in a sport where we are looked at (& possibly rightfully so) as woefully inferior. …They mock us. They ridicule us. They say we’ll NEVER amount to anything in a sport watched by more people on this planet than all other sports combined… But what they fail to realize is that that’s what Americans do best: We rise up. We beat the odds…. We NEVER back down from a challenge… & when the odds are stacked against us; when everyone says we can’t do it; when the rest of the world doubts our resolve… WE BRING IT.

  4. Neruda says:

    Can’t wait for the game to start already. Enough analysis. Time to play the match.

  5. Ray F says:

    Is the ideal result today a USA win and Germany-Portugal tie? If I’m correct it would put the U.S. in a “win and in” scenario vs Portugal? plus a 0 goal dif for both Germany and Portugal.

    Or is it better for Germany to win? Thinking that would give USA and Germany 3 points each against 0 for ghana and portugal going in to the second games.

    Curious what others think.

    • Gordoninho says:

      I think you present the two best scenarios. Building on your thoughts; a Germany/Portugal bore draw or a German win by two or more goals, specifically, would set the USMNT up very well. Having said that, if Ronaldo looks less than 100%, Portugal could be vulnerable. In that case, two wins for Germany against Portugal and Ghana might best help the USA advance to the knockout rounds.

  6. Gordoninho says:

    I like the fact that we are the only team from the Western Hemisphere in our group.