2014 World Cup Daily, Day 5: "Go, Go USA!"

By Ty Duffy

USA vs. Ghana… Ghana is a definite “must-win” for the U.S. with Germany and Portugal following. The U.S. is a definite “must-win” for Ghana with Germany and Portugal following. One would suspect “not going home” would be enough motivation, though many will play up the “revenge” angle with Ghana eliminating the U.S. in both 2006 and 2010. Both losses saw the U.S. struggle handling Ghana’s power and pace in the attacking third. The U.S. liability entering the 2014 World Cup is…defense.

Basic questions for Team USA…Can they get the “diamond midfield” to work? It puts Michael Bradley in an advanced position, where he can be a creative and (for the opponent) disruptive force. It also leaves the back four potentially exposed. Will Jozy Altidore be the guy who scored twice against Nigeria or the guy who scored once in 31 EPL appearances?

There are weather issues in Natal, after days of torrential downpours. Klinsmann believes the CONCACAF qualifying tour provides ample preparation for natural adversity.

Germany vs. Portugal… These teams met in the Euro 2012 group stage. Mario Gomez broke a deadlock in a 1-0 win. He did not make the 2014 squad, and Germany don’t have another full-on striker like him. The major story for both team has been “100 percent fitness.” For Portugal, Cristiano Ronaldo says he is 100 percent. That statement’s verity could make the difference between “dark horse” and “out in the group stage.”

Germany coach Joachim Low claims his players are “100 percent fit.” Though Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm and Sami Khedira had injury concerns entering the tournament. “100 percent fit” Bastian Schweinsteiger had to be airlifted from Germany training for a scan on his knee and will start on the bench. Philipp Lahm moving into defensive midfield means Germany has no natural fullbacks…to face Cristiano Ronaldo.

For U.S. purposes…you want Germany to win, big.

Iran vs. Nigeria… Neither side has won a World Cup match since 1998. Nigeria reached the Round of 16. Iran beat the United States 2-1, eliminating them from the tournament. The winner here will be best placed to challenge Bosnia and Herzegovina for the second place behind Argentina. This one could affect the tournament’s goals-per-game average.

Nigeria has more talent, with a number of EPL players. They have speed. They lack creativity and goal-scoring in the final third. Iran, who will sit back and force them to come forward, are not their ideal opponent. The Iranians are a bit of a wild card. Most of the team is based in Iran. They struggle scheduling top-quality opposition and even obtaining equipment that fits.

As FIFA turns… Franz Beckenbauer will assist the FIFA World Cup corruption investigation, after having the questions translated into German. The German legend retired from FIFA’s executive committee in 2011. He has been linked with business endeavors in both Russia and Qatar. Though he criticized the Qatar choice in the immediate aftermath and was assumed to have been the one vote for Australia. FIFA is also investigating the England 2018 bid for corruption. The English bid held a “gala dinner” for Caribbean officials that cost about $371 a head. For some comparison, the Qatar 2022 bid paid $1.8m to “sponsor” a CAF general assembly meeting.

[USA Today Sports]