Although Germany are one of the favourites to win the World Cup, none of the remaining three teams should have been discounted from progressing to the knock-out stages and therefore Group G’s first games made for compulsive viewing.
Germany 4-0 Portugal
Die Mannschaft kicked-off their World Cup campaign on Monday at the Arena Fonte Nova, in Salvador with a comfortable 4-0 victory over 10-man Portugal.
In boasting an all-star squad, respected German figures have reiterated their high expectations on Joachim Low’s side to deliver the bacon:
“Two years ago in the European Championship the team was very very good but not experienced enough. Now, it’s two years later, so also they have a lot of experience. I think it’s time for Germany to win the World Cup again.”—Franz Beckenbauer
Despite injuries to the likes of Lars Bender and Marco Reus, the Germans remained in confident mood in the lead up to their opening match against Portugal.
There has also been an intense focus on Cristiano Ronaldo—the reigning Ballon d’Or winner—for two reasons. Despite winning La Decima with Real Madrid, the latter section of his season was disrupted with niggling injuries. Furthermore, the majority of the perceived ‘stars’ of the tournament have started strongly—Van Persie, Robben, Benzema and Messi have all produced positive headlines—and therefore the pressure is on.
Once the game got under way, Bayern Munich midfielder Thomas Muller gave the Germans the lead in the first-half, courtesy of a penalty following a foul on the industrious Mario Gotze.
Mats Hummels doubled the lead in the 32nd minute with an emphatic header from a Toni Kroos corner.
Things then went from bad to worse for the Portuguese as Brazilian-born Pepe received his marching orders for retaliation, after Muller had made a meal of a legitimate challenge.
On the stroke of half-time Muller doubled his personal tally, to score Germany’s third. In the second half he completed his hat-trick sweeping home following a Phillip Lahm cross.
After Pepe’s dismissal there was no way back for A Selecção, whose efforts were all from long range.
Ghana 1-2 USA
Having reached the quarter-finals in 2010, at the US’ expense in the last-16, Ghana will be hoping to go one better and become the first African semi-finalists.
Asamoah Gyan, now 28, is playing in his third World Cup and is the Black Stars main threat.
In acknowledging his side’s last match is against his native Germany, US coach Jurgen Klinsmann is aware that that match could be crucial:
“I’m proud that the staff I put into place in 2006 is still there, and they have an amazing team capable of winning the World Cup. It’s going to be a big test for us, but we will be ready.”
The US prepared in typical fist-pumping style for the match.
Merely 30 seconds after the kick-off the Black Stars found themselves 1-0 down after Clint Dempsey was afforded the freedom of Ghana’s penalty area to waltz past Boye and slot into the corner, which instigated wild scenes on the American bench.
In a bruising encounter, Jozy Altidore strained a hamstring and goalscorer Dempsey was on the receiving-end of a bloody nose, while Ghana huffed and puffed in the second half.
The Americans defended resolutely but the Black Stars didn’t help themselves by lacking composure with their final passes.
However, in the last 10 minutes the drama unfolded. Ayew collected a cute backheel by Gyan to charge into the area and with the outside of his foot levelled for Ghana. It looked like the Africans would go on to win but Brooks headed in a corner four minutes from time to earn The Stars and Stripes three crucial points.
Continuing on from Group F’s opening match between Argentina and Bosnia yesterday, Iran took on Nigeria in Curitiba.
Iran 0-0 Nigeria
After all the goals which had rained in during the tournament’s previous matches, Brazil 2014 produced its first scoreless draw. It was a true snoozefest of a match with minimal moments of any note.
Bosnia must have watched with glee as they will surely beat both Iran and Nigeria to progress to the last-16.