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World Cup

  • June 16, 2014
  • • 17:00
  • • Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, Bahia
  • Referee: M. Mažić
  • • Attendance: 51081
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Germany-Portugal Preview: Bento struggling with Ronaldo dilemma

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.


Players to watch

M. Özil

Position: Midfielder

Games: 7

  • 1
  • 0
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During the early stages of Mesut Ozil’s Arsenal career, the €50 million that the Gunners had paid Real Madrid for his services last summer was looking like a bargain. By the end of the season, many felt it had been a colossal waste of money. Blessed with arguably the sweetest left foot in world football today, Ozil’s talent to pick a pass is beyond dispute. However, his consistency and ability to influence big games is now under intense discussion. The playmaker will therefore be determined to remind everyone of his enduring class in Brazil.  

Nani

Position: Midfielder

Games: 3

  • 1
  • 0
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With doubts over Ronaldo’s fitness and uncertainty surrounding whether Bento will pick Helder Postiga over Hugo Almeida, Nani is arguably the only guaranteed starter in the Portuguese attack in Salvador. Bento has stood by the Manchester United man during his time at the helm but the winger remains maddeningly inconsistent. He simply has to deliver in Brazil – not just for his coach and country but also for the sake of his career, which has stagnated in recent seasons. There is talk of a summer switch to Juventus but Nani must first prove himself finally capable of harnessing his undoubted talent.

Editor's Prediction

One player does not make a team - unless that player is Cristiano Ronaldo. So, much will depend on whether the Real Madrid superstar is fit to feature. However, a Germany side overflowing with attacking options in midfield are capable of ripping Portugal apart whether Ronaldo plays or not. The Germans will play without a recognised striker, while Sweden highlighted their defensive deficiencies during qualifying, but they have enough goals in them to edge the Seleccao in what should be an entertaining encounter.

Last Five Matches

Head To Head

Germany

Portugal

Wins
4
0
1
Wins

Betting & Predictions

Reader's Predictions

Germany DEU
Germany Germany
Draw
Portugal PRT
Portugal Portugal
55%
33%

Top 3 Predictions

Germany DEU
2 - 1
Portugal PRT
Germany DEU
1 - 2
Portugal PRT
Germany DEU
3 - 1
Portugal PRT

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