It’s here; the greatest sporting spectacle the world has to offer (and yes, I’m including the Super Bowl), the pinnacle of the “Beautiful Game”, the World Cup. The time when the finest footballers from 32 different countries descend upon one location to see who, when it’s all said and done, will hoist the coveted hardware and proclaim that they are the best team or country in World football.
And while it will undoubtedly be a team effort that determines every win or loss, often times the game does come down to a few supreme individual efforts. This naturally appeals to the fantasy degenerates in all of us, as we attempt to collate and quantify what each player does and how that leads to his team’s success or lack their of. Which is why, I will primarily be focusing on the individual players to watch as you sit back and enjoy the matches from your couch.
Today we’re taking a look at Group G.
- United States
Group G is an exciting group with some serious talent, but let’s be honest, Germany should have little to no trouble handling the other three teams and should emerge as the group’s winner. The Germans will be seeking their fourth title, while Portugal, the US, and Ghana are still each searching for their first.
Germany boast one of the most complete teams in the world and are probably only rivaled by Spain in terms of the overall talent and depth the can put out on the pitch. In fact, they’re so stacked with talent that players like ílkay Gündogan and Mario Gómez – who would probably start for most other countries – were omitted from the World Cup roster. They breezed through their qualifying stages, and apart from a complete meltdown should at least find themselves in the semifinal stage – if not the final itself.
Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Roman Weidenfeller (Borussia Dortmund), Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover)
Defenders: Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich), Erik Durm (Borussia Dortmund), Kevin Grosskreutz (Borussia Dortmund), Benedikt Howedes (Schalke), Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich), Per Mertesacker (Arsenal), Shkodran Mustafi (Sampdoria).
Midfielders: Julian Draxler (Schalke), Matthias Ginter (Freiburg), Mario Gotze (Bayern Munich), Christoph Kramer (Borussia Monchengladbach), Sami Khedira (Real Madrid), Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Andre Schurrle (Chelsea), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich).
Forwards: Miroslav Klose (Lazio), Lukas Podolski (Arsenal).
Players To Watch:
Much similar to when I previewed Spain, I could make this simple and just say “everyone” but instead we’ll focus a few select individuals.
Manuel Neuer/GK: Neuer and the term “best keeper in the world” often go hand in hand. He possess cat-like reflexes and is an excellent distributor out of the back. He’s been a rock between the posts for the German powerhouse Bayern Munich since 2011 and has been the first choice keeper for his national team since the 2010 World Cup. Thanks to his own skills and a strong back four in front of him, he should be one of the fist keepers selected for World Cup fantasy. He’s got a legitimate shot at a clean sheet in all three of his group games.
Philipp Lahm/D: Arguably the best Right Back in the world, Lahm has been described by his Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola as “the most intelligent player I’ve ever coached”. For Germany, he’ll start at his usually spot at Right Back, but, similar to his role for club team Bayern Munich, he will drift into the midfield where his creativity can be better utilized. This increases his fantasy stock as he’ll be pressing forward more and will have a chance to help in the team’s attack.
Mesut Özil/M: One of the best “no. 10’s” in the world, Özil is Germany’s midfield wizard. He had somewhat of an up and down year for Arsenal, but when he’s at his best there are few better with the ball at their feet in all of world football. With some additional talent alongside him in midfield and some top strikers in front of him, he should be able to create endless opportunities for his teammates as well as bagging a few goals for himself.
Lukas Podolski/F: The 2006 World Cup “Best Young Player” enters the 2014 version on the back of a solid season for Arsenal where he, despite missing much of the year to injury, notched 9 total goals in all competitions.
There’s no getting around it, this team’s all about “CR7”. Yes, they’re a good club, they wouldn’t be in the World Cup otherwise, but Ronaldo proved his worth to the team when he put them on his back against Sweden in the qualifying playoff by bagging all four goals to clinch his team’s World Cup birth.
Goalkeepers: Beto (Sevilla), Eduardo (Braga), Rui Patricio (Sporting).
Defenders: Andre Almeida (Benfica), Bruno Alves (Fenerbahce), Fabio Coentreo (Real Madrid), Joao Pereira (Valencia), Neto (Zenit), Pepe (Real Madrid), Ricardo Costa (Valencia).
Midfielders: Joao Moutinho (Monaco), Miguel Veloso (Dinamo Kiev), Raul Meireles (Fenerbahce), Ruben Amorim (Benfica), William Carvalho (Sporting).
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Eder (SC Braga), Helder Postiga (Lazio), Hugo Almeida (Besiktas), Nani (Manchester United), Rafa (Braga), Varela (FC Porto), Vieirinha (Wolfsburg).
Players To Watch:
Christiano Ronaldo/F: Bet you didn’t see this one coming. Seriously though, while the team may not be in the tournament that long, he’s talented enough to notch three or four goals and possibly even an assist or two. Due to the team he’s on there’s a few other options you should consider ahead of him in the first round of your World Cup drafts, but he shouldn’t escape the top five picks.
The 2014 World Cup will mark the US’ tenth appearance in the tournament and their seventh straight. And, being an American myself I can tell you that there’s an excitement surrounding this team that I have not felt prior to any pervious World Cup in recent memory. Yes they’ve been placed in the “group of death”, but many truly feel that this team is talented enough to escape it. Jurgen Klinsman has put his mark on the team, opting for more of a youth movement instead of relying those that have helped make the game what it is in our country (cough, cough – Landon Donovan), but we have faith in his leadership none the less.
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake).
Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Nuremberg), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders).
Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City).
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes).
Players To Watch:
Michael Bradley/M: Bradley has endeared himself to the hearts of American football fans with not only his creativity, but also his tireless pace and willingness to play box to box. A very good tackler and passer, Bradley can also finish when called upon but it’s his overall presence in midfield and ability to set up his teammates that make him who he is. He’ll slot in right behind Dempsey and Altidore, and could easily notch a handful of assists in the group stages.
Clint Dempsey/F: The United States’ best goal scoring threat. Dempsey is flat out lethal inside the box, and is equally as good with his movement off the ball as he is with the ball at his feet. As long as he’s able to link up well with the midfield, he should be able to find the back of the net a time or two.
2014 will be Ghana’s third consecutive trip to the the World Cup, and they qualified by winning five out of six games during their qualifying stage. They were quarterfinalist in 2010, and finished in the last 16 in 2006.
Goalkeepers: Fatau Dauda (Orlando Pirates), Adam Kwarasey (Stromsgodset), Stephen Adams (Aduana Stars).
Defenders: Samuel Inkoom (Platanias), Daniel Opare (Standard Liege), Harrison Afful (Esperance), John Boye (Rennes), Jonathan Mensah (Evian), Rashid Sumalia (Mamelodi Sundowns).
Midfielders: Michael Essien (AC Milan), Sulley Muntari (AC Milan), Rabiu Mohammed (Kuban Krasnodar), Kwadwo Asamoah (Juventus), Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu (Udinese), Afriyie Acquah (Parma), Christian Atsu (Vitesse), Albert Adomah (Middlesbrough), Andre Ayew (Marseille), Mubarak Wakaso (Rubin Kazan).
Forwards: Asamoah Gyan (Al Ain), Kevin-Prince Boateng (Schalke 04), Abdul Majeed Waris (Valenciennes), Jordan Ayew (Sochaux).
Players To Watch:
Asamoah Gyan/F: The Ghana goal machine will be looking to bounce back from a missed penalty kick in 2010 that would’ve sent his team to the semifinals. He’s amassed a whopping 59 goals since 2012 for Al Anin in the UAE Pro-League, and with 39 goals is his countries all time leading scorer as well.
Michael Essien/M: Ghana’s best overall talent, Essien is often referred to as “Bison” for his boundless energy and tough, attacking nature on the pitch. Not a prolific goal scorer, instead, Essien is more of a midfield general for his team; winning tackles and dictating play.
World Cup posters courtesy of Christiano Siqueria and ESPN