The penultimate World Cup 2014 group finale is upon us, and it promises to be the most fascinating yet with all four teams in the mix, all four teams playing good football and all the group’s matches so far having been memorable in some way. In Recife, the United States (2nd) play group leaders Germany. There’s potential intrigue there aplenty: the US are managed by German legend Jurgen Klinsmann and five of their players were born in Germany. US midfielder Jermaine Jones has already stated that he will be singing both anthems, something which you can only imagine would give The Daily Mail a heart attack if it were a German-born England player.
A draw will do for both teams to qualify, but one suspects it’s unlikely to be so clear cut, especially with none of the teams in the group yet guaranteed a second round berth. Both the United States and Germany could also still make it to the knockout phases if they lose today, but that is most likely to rely on Portugal – who have a significantly worse goal difference – narrowly beating Ghana in the game taking place in Brasilia. Portugal’s only real hope is to beat Ghana heavily and hope that Germany comfortably see off the USA. Germany, with a healthy +4 goal difference – three better than anyone else in the group – are very much in pole position but one suspects playing for a draw would be too much of a high-risk strategy for Der Mannschaft to take.
Miroslav Klose may well have a part to play in any of these scenarios. The German striker goes into this game needing one more goal to become the all-time top goalscorer in World Cup Finals history.
Ghana, too, are relying on a German victory to keep their qualification hopes alive. But the Black Stars only require a three-goal swing in the goal difference to prevail, as opposed to the six-goal swing required by their opposition. With this is mind, it’s likely to be a game played with some intensity. It’s also enlivened by the behind-the-scenes shenanigans in the Ghana camp: the Ghanaian FA have just had to fly out a charter plane containing $3 million in appearance payments for the squad who had otherwise threatened to go on strike. They have also suspended and sent home two of their finest players, Sulley Muntari and Kevin Prince-Boateng, for physical and verbal indiscipline respectively. It’s hardly the ideal preparation for a team who have never yet failed to make the knockout phases at a World Cup Finals.
Join us just before five to see how this one plays out. It could (we hope) be a thrilling afternoon of football. I’m feeling optimistic, so I’m even going to include the group table. I think we might need it at some stage.
1. Germany P 2 W 1 D 1 L 0 F 6 A 2 Pts 4 GD +4
2. United States P 2 W 1 D 1 L 0 F 4 A 3 Pts 4 GD +1
3. Ghana P 2 W 0 D 1 L 1 F 3 A 4 Pts 1 GD -1
4. Portugal P 2 W 0 D 1 L 1 F 2 A 6 Pts 1 GD -4
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