Tonight marks the beginning of the World Cup group stages for three-time champions Germany, or more specifically West Germany, who have also reached 4 other final appearances. Meanwhile their opponents in Salvador this evening, Portugal, haven’t managed to better their third place finish back in 1966.
It’s widely expected that their star man Cristiano Ronaldo, of Real Madrid fame, will start the game after some injury concerns coming into the tournament. He did limp off on Thursday’s training session and it was suspected that his reoccurring knee problems had returned. On the flip side Germany have some concerns over their talisman midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger. He was airlifted to hospital on Saturday but is expected to be within their starting eleven as the trip was for ‘check-up’ purposes only.
Germany got through their warm up’s pretty easily but only managed a draw with Cameroon on 1st June. Expectations are high and a place in the last four is likely to be the minimum requirement from Joachim Low’s squad. They completed their qualification campaign unbeaten but some concerns remain over their ability in the final third. Marco Reus, one of only two real centre forwards in their squad, has been removed due to injury leaving Miroslav Klose as their only option of an out-an-out striker. Their strength in depth from midfield though is of legendary proportions; with Matthias Ginter, Christoph Kramer and Julian Draxler all looking to stake a claim on the tournament from the substitute’s bench (and all more than capable).
Portugal also had some successful friendlies ahead of the tournament and registered wins over the Republic of Ireland and World Cup hopefuls Mexico. This came of the back of a rocky qualification campaign where it took an invigorated Ronaldo to get them through a tough play-off with Sweden. Portugal cannot rely on their talisman alone, especially if this injury of his returns, and they already have a tricky group to navigate. Paulo Bento’s side are as unpredictable as they are talented; able to win or lose against any opponents on any given day. Joan Moutinho, Pepe and Raul Meireles carry plenty of experience in the squad but with nine players in their thirties and an average age of 28.5 we could see them struggle in the Brazilian humidity.
Come join us just before 5:00pm (GMT) for what is sure to be a fantastic encounter between these European powerhouses.
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