I wasn’t able to catch any soccer yesterday, so I’ve been doing nothing but going through all potential scenarios about today in my head. I’m confident about our chances. But I’m scared. Germany is much better than Portugal. I’m hoping for a draw in the Portugal-Ghana game, but I don’t know how likely that is. So what does the U.S. have to do to get the all-important win?
To start, the U.S. must not sit back and hope for a scoreless draw. Playing ninety minutes of perfect defense isn’t something this current squad is capable of. At some point, there will be a mistake, and the Germans have the talent to capitalize. The U.S. will need to offer something going forward if only to prevent Germany from attacking with both fullbacks the whole game. A threat of a counter-attack will force Philipp Lahm to be more disciplined in midfield, and the U.S. will certainly be better off without him in possession in the attacking third.
While Portugal was a one-man threat, Germany offers the opposite – all players on the field can score. I think the U.S. might have success roughing up Mesut Özil and Mario Götze, two smaller players who don’t like a lot of contact. I hate to suggest we might have to play a more aggressive style of defense, but a few fouls here and there could prove helpful. If we can get Özil frustrated, Germany’s attack will become much less fluid.
Michael Bradley has to be better. His first half was decent against Portugal, but his play took a nosedive as the game went on. He should relish the chance to prove himself against some of the world’s best midfielders. I think he needs to be directly involved in a goal if the U.S. wants a result. Big players need to step up in big games and now is Bradley’s time. His balls over the top to Dempsey might be the way to unlock Germany’s defense, as Per Mertesacker’s speed remains a weakness of his. A late cameo from Aron Johannsson could terrorize Arsenal’s big German.
Should the U.S. attack a little bit, and if Fabian Johnson and Michael Bradley are at the top of their game, the Americans could create some chances. Germany has looked vulnerable at the back, and the only way to get a point off of them is to exploit that weakness. Simply trying to defend from the opening minute won’t get the job done.
I think the U.S. gives up another early goal, with Thomas Müller converting a penalty off a clumsy DeMarcus Beasley tackle. Mats Hummels will score a second German goal before halftime off of a set-piece. As the Americans send more men forward, a late counter-attack from Germany will see Andre Schürrle make it 3-0. It will be a convincing thumping, one that will leave American. fans in shock. Clint Dempsey will score a consolation goal in the waning moments though, which could be crucial in the goal-differential battle. My final prediction is Germany 3 USA 1.
Ghana 2 Portugal 2
While everybody around this country will be watching the other game, this one will be a thriller. Portugal will score two first half goals, Cristiano Ronaldo on the end of both. The Portuguese will be flying, looking to overturn goal-differential problems from the loss to Germany. João Moutinho will pick apart the Ghanaian defense on the counter. But just when things are looking good for Portugal, Ghana will fight back, getting their first from Andre Ayew. Minutes later, Christian Atsu will open his World Cup account, tying the game. With the U.S. losing big, Ghana will go for it all in the closing minutes, sending everyone forward looking for the winner. But it won’t come. Portugal’s maligned defense will end up becoming American heroes.
Algeria 1 Russia 1
Algeria will continue to impress, taking Group H’s final spot from the grips of the Russians. Russia will jump on top early, getting a goal against the run of play from Alan Dzagoev, who I tip to start today. From there, Russia will sit back and hope to cling on to their slim lead. However, a deserved goal will come from Sofiane Feghouli for Algeria midway through the second half. The final twenty minutes or so will be incredibly tense, with the Russians throwing men forward in search of the winning goal. Unfortunately for Fabio Capello, Russia will lack the necessary quality to break down the crowded Algerian defense, and Algeria will be a surprise inclusion in the knockout stage.
Belgium 2 South Korea 0
Belgium will once again fail to impress. They’ll look tired and disinterested for much of the match. But when they feel like it, a goal will come from Kevin De Bruyne. Belgium’s second will be scored by Daniel Van Buyten on a towering header. South Korea won’t have much fight in them after Belgium’s first goal, and after an impressive start, will fail in the important moments. Like Argentina, Belgium will finish with all nine points having played nowhere near their best.
I hope everyone has plans to watch the game this afternoon, doing whatever it takes to watch. Apparently, my camp is watching the game for our afternoon activity, so hopefully that happens. Let’s pray for a tie in the Ghana-Portugal game. That might be our best hope. Ideally, I’ll also have a piece on the NBA Draft at some point this evening. I believe that we can win.