MONDAY SCHEDULE (All times Eastern)
Germany vs. Portugal - Noon, ESPN
Nigeria vs. Iran - 3 p.m., ESPN
U.S. vs. Ghana - 6 p.m., ESPN
Germany-Portugal should be a tight affair, but I've got to give a slight edge to the Germans due to the nagging injuries of Cristiano Ronaldo. If he's fit and playing to his potential, it may very well end a draw.
This is the best opportunity for Nigeria to pick up three important points. This Iran team is not as talented as World Cups past like the 1998 team that surprised in France.
Ghana-U.S. is a very even matchup between two teams with very different qualities. The U.S. will need a disciplined and collective performance and must not get isolated one-on-one defensively. They need to impose their cadence/tempo similar to what they did in the friendly against Nigeria on June 7. Additionally, they've got to be aggressive in attack and balance when pressing.
Time to stick my neck out. I think Germany doesn't just beat Portugal, but CRUSHES them! The Germans always start major tournaments at top speed and no team in the world is better at shutting down a brilliant individual. That's you I'm talking about, Cristiano.
Stephen Keshi's Nigeria is young and fast and wildly unpredictable, but they have a real chance of getting out of the group.
In a very tight and tense match, Klinsmann’s tactics are better equipped to handle Ghana’s physicality than previous U.S. teams.
Billed as one of the most exciting matchups of the group stage, this game puts together two sides who do not really have great strikers. Portugal will be relying on Ronaldo for their goals, but the Germans’ excellent defense should be able to contain him.
Iran was one of the first teams to qualify for the World Cup and they'll likely be one of the first out too. The current Africa Cup of Nations champs should kick off their campaign with a win.
In reality, this will be the USA’s best opportunity to pick up points at the 2014 World Cup. The Black Stars have knocked them out of the past two World Cups and boast more quality, but the U.S. team’s creativity and aggressive style should be enough for a draw against the favored Ghanaians.
Germany vs. Portugal – Trying to advance can wait until they each face Ghana and the U.S.
Iran vs. Nigeria – I feel I've picked too many favorites so far. This could be a flawed strategy.
U.S. vs. Ghana – The U.S. should consider pulling a Luis Suarez if needed. Ghana is susceptible to those kind of tactics.