World Cup Preview Group G: Germany, Portugal navigate the U.S., Ghana minefield

7 Comments

Group B has the power, Group D has the balance, but Group G has its own claim to being the 2014 World Cup’s group of death:

  • In every World Cup Germany’s entered, they’ve made it to the final eight;
  • Portugal has one of the world’s two best players (Cristiano Ronaldo) and took Spain to penalty kicks in the semifinals of the last European championship;
  • A United States team that made the Round of 16 two years ago improved its qualifying performance while forging a more resourceful squad;
  • Ghana has more viable attacking options than the team that made the final eight in South Africa.

The argument against this being the Group of Death: There’s a pretty big drop off after the quartet’s top two, a drop you don’t see in Groups B and D. Ultimately, if there are no upsets, two teams that may not be among the best 16 in the world won’t make it to the second round. Your website of choice probably won’t break out the big typeface if the U.S. and Ghana go home.

That’s not a Group of Death, but it is a group of depth – a packet that could provide drama, particularly if Portugal isn’t at full strength when they face Germany on June 16.

Let’s take another look at Group G (click on country name for full preview)

Germany: The loss of a player like Marco Reus would be debilitating for most World Cup qualifiers, but Germany’s depth in attack means the Nationalmannschaft is unlikely to feel that pain until the later rounds. In this group, an ability to control the midfield may prove too much to over come in games two and three, while the 2010 semifinalists are capable of out-gunning Portugal in the opener.

Portugal: Tendinosis may not completely derail Cristiano Ronaldo’s World Cup, but there’s a chance the Portugal star will be hampered throughout the tournament. If he can’t be his normal, explosive self, it will be up to midfielder Joao Moutinho to get the best out of the Selccao’s other attacking options.

Ghana: A deep array of attacking talent is capable of overcoming the team’s typical problems. At the back, the Black Stars’ weakness in goal can be heightened by a lack of poise from their back four. Under the pressure their group mates can bring, Ghana’s back five will have to find a new level.

United States: While the team does not look glamorous on paper, a convincing run through CONCACAF qualifying hints the squad may be more capable than it was four years ago. With Jurgen Klinsmann at the helm, the U.S. has been able to leverage its new approach to forge its physical capabilities with tactical flexibility. They’re the team most likely to make meaningful tweaks from game to game.

Who’s going through: Germany, clearly. Portugal is the next most likely, but health could become a major concern. The U.S. is being scoffed at by the typical detractors, but they’re more adaptable than they’ve been at previous tournaments. Ghana is the team least likely, but even they’re capable of springing the upsets that would carry them through.

Who’s going home: Most likely, the U.S. and Ghana. Portugal could replace one of them, while it would be an utter shot of Joachim Löw’s side was tripped up twice in three matches.

Top players to watch:

5. João Bradley … errr, Michael Moutinho – you know, that central midfielder from the United States of Portugal? (Reality: Moutinho and the U.S.’s Michael Bradley will each play crucial roles or their teams.)

4. Mario Götze, Germany

3. Thomas Müller, Germany

2. Phillip Lahm, Germany

2. Marco Reus, Germany

1. Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal

Transfer rumor roundup: PL duo eyeing Asensio and more

AP Photo/Francisco Seco
Leave a comment

The ongoing World Cup hasn’t halted the transfer talk across global soccer, and on Wednesday there are a number of potentially intriguing storylines.


Two Premier League sides are chasing Real Madrid attacker Marco Asensio, including Chelsea and Manchester United, while they will have to battle Paris Saint-Germain as well.

Although Asensio is prepared to stay in Spain next season, he wants to be assured of playing time under new manager Julen Lopetegui, who recently joined the club.

The 22-year-old scored 11 goals in all competitions last season for Los Blancos.


Juventus continues to have several players at the center of transfer rumors, and Miralem Pjanic is a name that keeps popping up.

The midfielder won’t come cheap though, with Juve reportedly set to ask for $92.6 million in the event that a club wants to acquire Pjanic.

Barcelona is rumored to be seeking a move for Pjanic with Andres Iniesta now heading to Vissel Kobe in the J-League.


New Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri is reportedly looking to bring several of his former Napoli players to Stamford Bridge, including Belgium star Dries Mertens.

The Blues are seeking more attacking options ahead of the fall, and the veteran Mertens has become a proven commodity in front of goal over the course of his Serie A career.

Uruguay reaches Round of 16 courtesy of Suarez

Dan Mullan/Getty Images
1 Comment

The first two nations have advanced to the knockout phase out of Group A.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Uruguay reached the Round of 16 on Wednesday with a 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia, who has been eliminated from the 2018 World Cup.

Hosts Russia will also reach the knockout rounds with the Uruguay win, thus eliminating Egypt as well.

The Barcelona striker gave Uruguay the lead in the 23rd minute, after a poor read from Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais.

Suarez was given a wide-open finish at the far post off the corner kick for his first goal at the World Cup. The 31-year-old had scored a combined five goals during his last two World Cup appearances (2010 & 2014).

The Uruguyans dictated the tempo throughout much of the match, but Saudi Arabia’s back line held strong for the majority of the game.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

Uruguay will close out group play against Group A leaders and hosts Russia on June 25, while Saudi Arabia and Egypt will tango that same day.

Video: Goalkeeping error grants Suarez, Uruguay gift

Mike Hewitt - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images
1 Comment

Luis Suarez was clearly upset with his lack of finishing in Uruguay’s opener last Friday, but the Barcelona man is finally on the scoresheet at the 2018 World Cup.

[MORE: Ronaldo’s early header gives Portugal win over Morocco ]

The veteran striker gave Uruguay the lead in the 23rd minute after a close-range finish off of a corner kick.

Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais came out to try and collect the cross, however, he was slow in his reaction, allowing the ball to slip through to Suarez for the easy finish.

The Uruguayans will reach the Round of 16 with one match remaining if they hold on to their 1-0 lead.

NZ women’s coach placed on leave after player complaints

Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images
2 Comments

Wellington, New Zealand (AP) The coach of New Zealand’s women’s football team has been placed on leave pending an investigation of complaints about his conduct from members of the national team.

[ MORE: Senegal holds off late Poland charge for Group H win ]

The complaints centered around tactics Andreas Heraf used in a recent home international against Japan and his comments to media after that match. Players reportedly objected to the defensive nature of Heraf’s tactics in the 3-1 loss.

New Zealand Football chief executive Andy Martin said at a news conference on Wednesday that his organization had received a letter from the New Zealand Professional Footballers Association, containing letters of complaint from 13 national team members.

Defending his approach at a news conference after the match, Heraf said the New Zealand players would never have the “quality” to compete with a team of Japan’s ability and might have lost 8-0 if they had not adopted a defensive style.

Further reports have emerged of player concerns about Heraf’s behavior, including allegations of bullying.

Martin was repeatedly questioned at the news conference about when New Zealand Football first had notice of the players’ concerns about Heraf. He insisted he was not aware of any problems until the letter from the NZPFA containing the players’ complaints was released on Monday.

In a statement, New Zealand Football Chairman Deryck Shaw said player welfare was “of utmost importance.”

“We hold player welfare as a matter of utmost importance and that is why we are conducting a thorough, independent review. We want to ensure we better understand these issues in an objective review. There is no place for inappropriate behavior of any kind with New Zealand Football.”