Injury concerns hang over both camps with Cristiano Ronaldo, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira all in danger of missing the match between the group favourites
By Mark Doyle in Salvador
Paulo Bento has a massive decision to make ahead of Portugal’s World Cup opener against Germany in Salvador.
The Selecao’s star man, Cristiano Ronaldo, has been struggling with both tendonitis and a thigh problem for the past two months and, despite making his return to action in Tuesday’s final World Cup warm-up clash against Republic of Ireland, the attacker was twice forced to cut short his participation in training in recent days.
Consequently, Bento must decide whether to risk the fitness of the Ballon d’Or holder in a game that will most likely determine the winners of Group G, or keep the attacker in reserve for the subsequent and more winnable clashes with USA and Ghana.
Bento’s Germany counterpart, Joachim Low, has his own selection conundrums but has already made two big calls which have significant effects on his side's approach to the game.
Firstly, with doubts over the fitness of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira, the versatile Philipp Lahm will start not at full-back but in midfield, where he is most likely to be joined by Toni Kroos. The latter is a favourite of Low’s and will definitely start, either alongside Lahm or on the left-hand side, where a void has been left by the tournament-ending injury suffered by Marco Reus. However, the early signs are that Lukas Podolski will play out wide.
What is known for certain is that Miroslav Klose will not spearhead the attack. The Lazio hitman is the only striker in Germany’s squad but Low has already confirmed that the 36-year-old, who has had his own injury issues of late, will start on the bench, meaning Thomas Muller will lead the line.
At the back, meanwhile, Benedikt Howedes is expected to get the nod ahead of Erik Durm in Germany’s problem position of left-back, with Jerome Boateng on the opposite flank.