Thursday's Group G Play
June 25, 2014
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United States vs. Germany (ESPN, 12:00 p.m. ET)
Germany -144, United States +650, Tie +125
Over/Under: 2.5 Goals (Over -109, Under -120)
After letting a chance to win Group G slip away with a goal allowed in the 95th minute, the United States and Germany are still in the driver's seat to advance to the next round when the two clubs meet on Thursday.
The Americans nearly had their second straight 2-1 victory to open the tournament, but a horrendous giveaway in midfield by Michael Bradley allowed Portugal to score the equalizer on the last kick of the game. Germany also had a chance to clinch the group, but had to settle for a 2-2 draw with heavy underdog Ghana. Both teams will advance on Thursday with a tie, and Germany (+4 goal differential) will likely get through to the Round of 16 even with a loss to the Americans.
The United States could also lose and get through with a Ghana/Portugal tie or a Portugal win by less than three goals. But if the U.S. loses and Ghana wins by at least two goals, the Americans would be sent home. The United States will still be missing starting striker Jozy Altidore, who is likely finished for the 2014 World Cup because of a left hamstring injury. The head coach of the Americans knows this German side very well, as Jurgen Klinsmann has both played and coached Germany in past World Cups.
The Americans have been led by forward Clint Dempsey, who scored a goal in the first 30 seconds of the tournament opener, broke his nose later that game, and also scored at the 81st minute against Portugal with what looked to be the game-winner at the time. John Brooks Jr. and Jermaine Jones have the club's other two goals in the World Cup.
USA has been outshot badly in this tournament by a combined total of 41-23, but are an even 17-17 in terms of shots on goal with nine corner kicks compared to 11 for their opponents. The Americans have also lost the time of possession in both matches, holding the ball for only 40% of the time versus Ghana and 48% of the time versus Portugal.
But the United States has been whistled for only 23 fouls and two offsides in the World Cup and their only booked player was Jones picking up a yellow card versus Portugal. It will be interesting to see how star midfielder Michael Bradley bounces back from a match in which he failed to score a point-blank opportunity with the goalie out of net (his shot was blocked by a Portugal defender) and turned the ball over in the final minute to allow Portugal to force a tie. But the U.S. has to be confident in the play of goalie Tim Howard, who has made some brilliant saves this tournament, especially versus Portugal.
Germany has scored six times in the World Cup with Thomas Muller netting half of those goals against Portugal. Muller, who also has an assist during the tournament, has eight goals in eight career World Cup matches.
Mats Hummels, Mario Gotze and Miroslav Klose have the other tallies for the Germans, with Klose's tally marking his 15th career World Cup goal, which ties Ronaldo for the all-time record. Germany possessed the ball for 54% of the time versus Portugal and 59% of the time versus Ghana, and hold an 11-9 edge in corner kicks on their opponents.
But Germany has been outshot by a hefty 34-24 margin in total shots for the tournament (19-15 in shots on goal). With the Germans needing only a tie to win this group, expect them to employ a more defensive game plan on Thursday.
Portugal vs. Ghana (ESPN2, 12:00 p.m. ET)
Portugal +135, Ghana +177, Tie +260
Over/Under: 3.5 Goals (Over +155, Under -188)
Group G play of the 2014 World Cup wraps up on Thursday afternoon with Portugal and Ghana both needing a win and some help to push through to the Round of 16.
Portugal is quite a longshot to advance due to their minus-4 goal differential, but if they can beat Ghana 3-0 and have Germany beat the United States by a 2-0 margin, they will advance to the knockout stage. Ghana would only need to win 2-0 over Portugal plus a 1-0 Germany victory over the U.S. to reach the Round of 16.
Both of these clubs are coming off somewhat surprising draws, as Portugal needed a goal in the 95th minute versus the United States to keep its chances intact of advancing, while Ghana played heavily-favored Germany to a 2-2 draw in its last match. Ghana's Michael Essien is unlikely to start again due to his lingering toe injury, but Portugal should see an improvement on their back line with the return of Pepe who missed the last game after his silly head-butt to Germany's Thomas Muller.
Portugal, referred to as Seleccao, saw star Cristiano Ronaldo play a horrible match versus the US due largely to a lingering knee injury, but he still found a way to serve a perfect cross to the head of Silvestre Varela in the final minute of stoppage time to help his team earn a draw and keep small hopes alive for moving on in this tournament. Nani opened the scoring in that epic draw with an easy goal five minutes in off a horrible clear by the American defender.
Although Portugal carries a minus-4 goal differential due to getting waxed 4-0 by Germany in the World Cup Opener, the team has outshot both of its opponents, holding a 20-15 total shots advantage over the U.S. after outshooting Germany 14-13. But of Seleccao's 34 shots in the World Cup, only 18 have been on net. Portugal has also been pretty even in ball possession, holding a slim 52% to 48% advantage over the Americans after allowing the Germans to have a 54% possession.
Ghana, known as The Black Stars, really put the pressure on the Germans in their last match with 20 total shots, including 10 on goal. Germany attempted only 11 shots with six on goal. That gives Ghana 41 total shots (18 on goal) for the tournament while limiting their opponents to a paltry 19 total shots (13 on goal). Ghana's 4-3-3 formation and excellent goaltending by Fatau Dauda could cause trouble for Portugal's erratic attack.
The Black Stars did lose possession time to Germany by a substantial 59% to 41% margin, which was just the opposite of their first game when they held the ball 60% of the time versus the Americans. But Ghana has played extremely rough in this tournament with 27 fouls and three yellow cards. Two of those cards went to midfielder Sulley Muntari's whose booking in the 94th minute of the battle of Germany will earn him a one-game suspension. Midfielder Mohammed Rabiu also has to be careful not to pick up another yellow card like he did in that first match.
Ghana's lone goal of their first match came at the 82nd minute from Andre Ayew, assisted by Asamoah Gyan on a sweet back-heel pass. This duo was at it again versus Germany with one goal each -- Ayew tallying at the 54th minute, and Gyan scoring nine minutes later.
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