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Sunday, 15 June 2014 15:24

Mission Impossible?

Portugal v Germany Match Preview

The Portuguese National Team will begin their World Cup mission against Germany tomorrow in Salvador. Seleção expert, Nathan Motz, considers Portugal's chances in their difficult Group of Death opener.

I grow weary of reading match previews that are based upon too many assumptions. Hence, my purpose will not be to create a false sense of security or foreboding by leaning on too many unknowns. In fact, I'm going to categorize my analysis based on what we all know, and what we don't know.

What we do know

Fans and pundits alike are generally convinced that this is a tie that puts Portugal at a disadvantage. The Germans are physically stronger, and have over the years proven to be something of a "bogie team" for the Portuguese. Portugal have been beaten in major tournaments three times by Germany since 2006, including their Euro 2012 opener against Die Mannschaft.

We also can be quite sure that both teams go into this match below 100% in terms of personnel. The degree to which they are below 100% remains debatable, but the Germans are deprived of their top striker in Marco Reus, and several key midfield options are also potentially compromised by fitness concerns. For Portugal, Cristiano Ronaldo's struggle for fitness has been well covered in the media, but I believe it is safe to say that his influence will be limited in some way.

The international consensus regarding this match is that Portugal lack the individual quality, Ronaldo notwithstanding, to overcome the Germans. However, it must be said that Germany have hardly proven themselves to be invincible over the last few months. Aside from their 6-1 battering of lowly Armenia, the Germans struggled in draws against Poland and Cameroon. Germany is thought to be defensively stronger than Portugal as well, but statistical analysis reveals that this may not be the case: Portugal actually allowed fewer goals than the Germans in World Cup qualifying and have only allowed four goals in their last seven matches despite being without its top defender, Pepe. 

The Germans will certainly pose a significant offensive threat to Portugal with young Mario Goetze, veteran Miroslav Klose, and Lukas Podolski all poised and ready to make their mark on this tournament. However, the Germans have been deprived of a true number 9 by injury, and will need to find a way to break down the Seleção without being hit on the counter. 

We also know that Phillip Lahm will be in midfield instead of at fullback where he often locks down opposing wingers entirely. Even if Ronaldo isn't able to play at all, Portugal have talented wide players who could present the Germans significant problems on the flanks, and it's likely that the Germans will compensate by taking possession of the middle of the pitch. 

This will be the fourth time since 2006 that these two teams have played, and Portugal will by now be well aware of the German's tactical intent. Furthermore, Portugal thrive against teams that try to push the tempo and play an open game against them. Suffice it to say, what we do know is that Germany are not guaranteed to win this match.

What we don't know

It is impossible to say exactly how Germany's tactical rearrangements will impact their play. No true number 9, Phillip Lahm in midfield, possibly no Bastian Schweinsteigger (or a less fit version)... there are real question marks about how the Germans will approach this match given their personnel deficiencies. 

Paulo Bento's gameplan is also an important unknown factor. In Euro 2012, Bento was cautious until late in the second half. By that time, Germany had already scored and were content to soak up the pressure, but Portugal created several decent chances and finished the match well on top. Will Bento go for it, or will he hold back?

We also cannot be sure of how well or how long Ronaldo will play. Against Ireland last week, the Portugal captain played a decent match despite being well below 100%, but this is the World Cup and there are three tough group stage matches to consider. If Ronaldo is broken in Game 1, how will Portugal fare against the USA and Ghana? Paulo Bento must use Ronaldo wisely and carefully without holding him back so much that our offence cannot produce results. 

Ronaldo's supporting cast also figures heavily into the equation. What "kind" of Nani will we see? The one that was benched for much of the club season for Manchester United? Or the one that ravaged Ireland and started and finished one of the most beatiful (unfortunately offside) moves that I've ever seen? Can William Carvalho neutralize the Germans physical threat? Based on everything I've seen from this group of players over the last few years, it can be said that they almost always perform better in the red and green of Portugal than they do for their home club. But it's a new year and a new tournament and players like Nani, Postiga, Almeida, and others will have to play above themselves, especially if Ronaldo cannot provide his usual impact. 

In summary, Ronaldo's presence, or the lack thereof, on the pitch means everything. Despite what we know or don't know about Germany, it is Ronaldo who will determine the outcome of this game, one way or the other. His play alone completely restructures the tactical flow of any match. Portugal's attacking architecture is altered, and by extention Germany's approach to countering his threat must also change. With Ronaldo at his best, the match complexion will look entirely different than without him.

PortuGOAL.net Prediction

The reality is that neither team will feel that all is lost if they fail to collect three points in this match. Both probably fancy their chances of victory against Ghana and the USA, so it's likely that this contest will be slow and cagey. I wouldn't be suprised to see a 0-0 draw playout, except that there are some real attacking threats on both sides of the field. Therefore, a 1-1 draw seems more likely, giving both teams a decent chance to qualify from the Group of Death. 

by Nathan Motz
Comments (35)
damn pepe
35 Monday, 16 June 2014 21:14
did pepe really had to get hot headed. he needs to keep his cool. this the world cup one time opportunity. what does players do not understand. all they need is a tie damn it.
34 Monday, 16 June 2014 18:26
Well that was a lot of fun..........
Fair result
33 Monday, 16 June 2014 18:10
We play to our expectations, deserved result we were bad. William should have been in d game but overall fair result
today match
32 Monday, 16 June 2014 18:07
hahahahaha :) LOSERS! cr7 is a piece of shiT
We suck
31 Monday, 16 June 2014 17:46
We suck and completely made a disgrace of the country! !!!! I'm embarrassed to be Portuguese right now!!!! 4 years to wait for this awful display we just aren't good enough! !!
30 Monday, 16 June 2014 17:10
Muller is a cheating, diving twat and wtf was pepe thinking?
Can we pull off the impossible?
29 Monday, 16 June 2014 16:50
3 goals down and a man sent off. Can we create a miracle in the last 45 minutes?
28 Monday, 16 June 2014 16:26
Im a die hard sportinguista but Patricio needs to come out
27 Monday, 16 June 2014 15:40
I was hoping for him to start.
Força Portugal!
26 Monday, 16 June 2014 14:42
I have no analysis or predictions to add. But as I get back on the emotional roller coaster that comes with supporting the Seleção through another World Cup, just wanted to give a shout out to all of my fellow Portuguese fans. Since that win over Sweden to get into the World Cup, it's all been leading up to this. Let's enjoy it and hope for the best.

Força Portugal!
World Cup
25 Monday, 16 June 2014 14:24
I'm thinking Portugal must be dedicating this World Cup to Eusebio, with dedication, semi-home advantage, Portugal has things to make think they can get a result, even if it is a draw. Do people forget Serbia defeated Germany in 2010 and Croatia defeated them at the Euro in the group stage?
Opening game jitters
24 Monday, 16 June 2014 13:47
Voice of Reason / Canada
I really want to see our guys come out and go after the Germans - they are not infallible and can be exploited.

This tournament has been a love in with Chile - about everyone loving the way they play...that is how we played in the early part of the decade.

let's get back to our way and take it to Germany - if we lose, so be it, we can win against US and Ghana to get to round of 16.
Mission Possible!
23 Monday, 16 June 2014 13:32
Portugal beat the Dutch in Euro 12 and the Dutch trash the Spaniards this World Cup. the Portuguese team can and better! Believe and do it! Forca!
Predicting a Portugal win
22 Monday, 16 June 2014 13:28
We always play well when we are under dogs... I'm going with 2:1 and please officials no taking advice and lessons from a certain Japanese referee
So the Swiss really AREN'T neutral are they?
21 Monday, 16 June 2014 13:08
Chris (Canada)
Hey Andre Chamomile Tea, thanks for your awesome trolling attempt "dude". Tell me about Germany's vast superiority again. Where did they end up at the Euro's in 2012? Ah yes, the semi-finals. Coincidentally, the same position as Portugal.

There's every chance Germany can win this today, but Portugal has just as much of a chance and even more motivation. Nobody here is unrealistic. Fools who speak of "vast superiority" are the ones I'd label as a fool especially since one of the teams on your list got smoked 5-1 already. Stop buying the media's same recycled nonsense.

Tony, I actually agree with your analysis for once, other than your usual negative intro. I place Portugal as better than the Germans this time around, talent-wise. A lot of our boys are underrated by big media that only focus on 3 european leagues. That said, I think the Germans are favourite because they're always so consistent and well-organized, and they have the 2nd best league in the world, IMO. It really comes down to tactics, and concentration as you mentioned.

I agree with your assessments of the 3 that could make or break it, but I would add Hugo Almeida. He looked great against Ireland, but his lack of focus in front of goal has cost us dearly in the past. Also, I think Joao Pereira gets a lot of flack despite being one of our best consistent performer. Sure, he sometimes gets caught out of position, but I also think he's the best consistent crosser on our team.

Nervous and excited for the game, want Portugal to finally live up to their potential and supporting them 110%.

Hope for the best
20 Monday, 16 June 2014 12:51
Nelson / Canada
Lots of comments here about not being pessimistic. Hareesh, while I admire your enthusiasm, how anyone can predict a 3-0 win for Portugal given the facts is beyond me.

I'm going to say that I'd be satisfied with a draw and a fit Ronaldo after 90+ minutes, I'd much rather have that than a win and banged up CR7.

My money is 100% on a cagey draw or 1 goal game either way. With a CR7 moment of brilliance making the difference if Portugal get the win, and poor defending on a set piece if Germany wins. No matter what happens I just hope CR7 avoids further aggravating his injury.

Having said that, Forca Selecao!
19 Monday, 16 June 2014 12:44
the BS...its game time...FORCA BITCHES.





Nós Somos Seleção!
18 Monday, 16 June 2014 10:01
Today the World Cup begins!
Not only the debut of the best player in the world but also the debut of A Seleção Portugal!
We all need to back whoever Bento decides to go with, and just believe in them. Many Brasileiros will be lending us their support too, so the boys should feel bouyed by this.
Cigano, branco, negro ou mulato, somos Portugal. VIVA PORTUGAL!
self esteem
17 Monday, 16 June 2014 08:55
This prediction itself reveals the lack of confidence...why this inferiority complex..?its a game and believe we will beat germany....portugal is a very talented team.I BELIEVE PORTUGAL WILL WIN.SCORE 3-0 OR ABOVE.THATS IT.
Three Positions Will be Key
16 Monday, 16 June 2014 05:16
Tony, CA
The reality is Germany is a cut above Portugal going into this game though Portugal can hold their own. It will take discipline, organization, concentration, and some cutting edge.

The last three game we have lost against Germany we have been in the game but lapses and missed chances have hurt us. We will need to do better with a quality chances to put the pressure on Germany.

Another key in my mind and I take lessons from Euro 2008 when I posted here about the "Axis of Doom" as three players at key positions doomed us with their lack of concentration and physical play: Paulo F (LB), Petit (DM) and Ricardo (GK).

Fast forward to 2014 and three key positions will determine if we can compete:

RB - Joao P: he is the mostly likely to be the new Paulo F, he needs to be careful especially allowing players to get open to the far post.

DM - Veloso could be the new Petit if William does not start. Against the Germans you need a physical midfield player.

GK - Rui P will be key especially on crosses and he will need to make at least two difficult saves for Portugal to have a chance. A Ricardo performance on crosses will doom us.

I believe we will play it tight but perhaps try to counter more than the last game in Euro 2012. Our best scoring chances will come from CR7 and CBs on set pieces.

Lets play well and build momentum for the next two games. You need to win at least 2 games to qualify.
My Line-up
15 Monday, 16 June 2014 03:05

Our main concern with Germany is their monstrous height advantage in all positions of the field. If Joao Pereira starts (which he will) he's going to get smoked on set-pieces. Even though Andre Almeida has been a disaster at LB, he's tall and usually reliable on the right.

Eder's the man upfront. Let's not be blinded by Almeida's unmarked tap-ins from 5 yards. Eder will work twice as hard pressuring the back line, tracking back AND his size and speed compliments Cristiano and Nani. Acordar Bento! - we know you're reading this.

Other line ups worth consideration..

Coentrao LCM---William DM---Moutinho---RCM

Veloso back at LB.. Or the 4-2-2.. plenty of variations to be tried..whether it be Ghana or the United States we could do some damage.

Feeling nervous but faithfully optimistic about tomorrow..

Germany 3 - Portugal 1
14 Monday, 16 June 2014 02:00
Andre Chamonix - Suisse
Portugal don't have much of a chance. So many unrealistic peeps here. Germany is vastly superior to Portugal. So is Spain, Argentina, Italy and Brazil. Sorry. It's a fact dudes.
13 Monday, 16 June 2014 01:20
Jonathan/ canada
The only way we win this if we finish the few chances that we get, and bento does not play a defensive system like in euro 2012. If we play defensive we will loose guaranteed. we have to go at them and show them were not scared of them like what the dutch did to the Spanish. Forca portugal, vamos e vitoria
re: Vitinho
12 Sunday, 15 June 2014 21:53
The starting eleven has not been revealed, but I would expect to see William start. Based on my observations, Veloso may not have much of a role to play at all in this tournament. But, with Bento, you never really know for certain until the lineup is released.
11 Sunday, 15 June 2014 21:01
Is Carvalho starting?
10 Sunday, 15 June 2014 20:27
I think most people predicted the Spanish to beat the Dutch... how well did that play out. This is the sport where anything can happen. Both have talented teams and both can take it. I just hope Bento has the team go for it.
9 Sunday, 15 June 2014 20:17
MDCViolenes- NY, USA
Brigado for the analysis Nathan, good stuff. So far the Mundial has been really exciting, with no draws so far and I love how teams are playing some fearless, more open ball. I'd say Portugal would keep that trend going, but I'm tending to agree with Nathan on the scoreline. Obviously I don't want to see us draw, as it still puts a bit of pressure on, plus Ghana and the Yanks may play it safe as well knowing that they are not rated as highly as Germany and Portugal. Both those teams will look to take points off of us, possibly at their own peril. Neither of them are North Korea, but they best watch themselves as the name Germany has seemed more fearful than their play lately (save for the last friendly).

I've said it before-- it's important to respect Germany, but not so much that we let them dictate and impose themselves on the game. I honestly do not believe there are any clear favourites in this World Cup, not Brasil, not Argentina, not Germany, Spain, Holland (not yet) or whoever else. Moutinho, Meireles, and (God, please) William will have to be spot on for us to make this happen. I think Bruno and Pepe will be alright, but I'm also a little worried about Joao at RB, he can't be getting caught out of position or getting himself skinned by Podolski on the flank. Lukas is no sharp drop off from Reus, and Pereira needs to hang in there and stay disciplined.

Hopefully we'll maintain some decent possession, as I feel the more we keep it even or above 50% the better we'll perform overall. I hope the crowd in Salvador, Portuguesa and Brasileiro both will show the Selecção lots of love! Best of luck to our men tomorrow. Força!
Portugal Win!
8 Sunday, 15 June 2014 19:58
I predict a Portugal win. Bias aside, I strongly believe we were the better side in Euro 2012. Now, without a great striker (I have a lot of respect for Klose, but he's not amazing), and with injury concerns, I don't think Germany will give our defense too much trouble. Their midfield is amazing, but their defense is lacking. Because Ronaldo has been resting for weeks, I think he will be prepared for this game.

7 Sunday, 15 June 2014 18:28
Nelson / Toronto
Well said brother! Respect Germany, don't fear them. Did the Netherlands fear Spain? No. I think we can take out the Germans especially given all the injury concerns they have. I'm predicting 3-1 for Portugal.

We can do it
6 Sunday, 15 June 2014 18:13
Players are there! we can do it! we're just in an urgent need of confidence! How did they decide that we're not favorites! if that's true and we're not favorites, then why we're classed 4th on the FIFA ranking just after Spain Brazil and Germany! I know that this classification isn't based on logical facts, but still: there's a contradiction and can't get it! why!? why all the media is predicting few from a team that went to the semi in the last euro, a country that has the best player in the world!

Another big question: why everyone is predicting Argentina to win! what's the difference between their 2014 and 2010 team! still the same players and even with a weaker defense and midfield! I mean come on! Messi 2010 was by far better than what he's today! Am I the only one who's thinking this way! It's really frustrating the way they look at us! This has nothing to do with what will be played on the field but it demotivates us as fans! I've always been optimistic but I don't know why media and propaganda are driving me to expect the minimum! why should we go to such a match praying to draw while we can have them! Let's root for one of the greatest teams "on paper" in this world cup!

Forca Portugal!
It's all about mentality.
5 Sunday, 15 June 2014 17:41
It's all about the mentality, the team needs a solid one that assures the players stay focused even if, God forbid, we were the first to concede. I should be more optimistic than I am now but the last 3 games against the Germans are still haunting me. It's not the fact that we lost those games but it was the manner in which we lost them. In 2006 and 2008 Germany won because they showcased a stronger mentality however when we stood our ground and looked them straight in the eye we lost in 2012 because of a header and he a clear goal disallowed at the end of the first half by Pepe (I'll never forget that). So it's either our mentality falls short or we are just unlucky enough to beat them.
For this tournament I found it's better not to expect anything from Portugal in any game even if we end up winning 5-0 from now until the final. I'm just doing what Capitao Ronaldo told us to do: Keeping my feet firmly on the ground. This Germany team is definitely beatable, and perhaps Argentina are relishing a game against them possibly in the QF just to seek revenge for what happened in 2006 and 2010 but the bottom line is that this is Germany, the most consistent national team in World Cup history (I read somewhere that they have won more WC games than Brazil so there you go).
Again, it's all about the mentality and our squad contains a selected number of players whom I quite frankly don't know how they coop with pressure one of which is William Carvalho who is an incredible players but I am yet to see him in such situations with the national team.
Now enough with the pessimism, I have to say that one of the main things that is allowing me to have hope for tomorrow night is Cristiano Ronaldo, and it's not because he is the best player in the world. Ronaldo genuinely flopped for Portugal in all of those 3 previous games against Germany and if anyone is relishing the chance for retribution against the Germans it is definitely Cristiano Ronaldo, 100% fit or no we both know that he will try his absolute best to get it done.

I'll just go ahead and throw a prediction and say 3-2 for Germany with Ronaldo hitting the woodwork at least once, I just don't think that Pereira is going to handle the pressure from his side very well and that will cost us the game. I really really hope I'm wrong though.

FORCA PORTUGAL, make me regret that I ever doubted you and let's kick some German ass!
Not a one man team!
4 Sunday, 15 June 2014 17:34
Nelson / Toronto
Nathan, I love the analysis. One thing I hate as I read all the match previews is how 90% of the experts believe that Portugal is a one man team. There's no doubting that CR7 is head a shoulders above everyone on the team, but he'd be head and shoulders above players on almost any team in the world, he's simply that good. But beyond Ronaldo we have world class players, Pepe, Coentrao, and Moutinho I'd all rate as world class. Nani, when he's on his game, is world class as well. William Carvalho is a beast and if he isn't already considered world class he's on the road to becoming world class. Throw in the fact that the core of this team has been together for so long and I believe this team can do a lot of damage. I can't wait for the Germany game, hopefully it lives up to the hype.
Excellent preview, Nathan!
3 Sunday, 15 June 2014 17:20
I completely agree with your prediction. I am expecting a cautious, cagey encounter with Germany looking to minimize Ronaldo's influence with patient possession-oriented futebol. Bento will likely opt for a more pragmatic approach based on disciplined defending and fast paced counter-attacks.

I was one of Paulo Bento's most vocal critics throughout the qualification process, but he deserves a great deal of praise for Portugal's performance at the Euro 2012. His relatively conservative approach to coaching tends to hurt us against the weaker, defense-oriented sides we face in the qualifiers, but it is tailor-made to maximize success in short, micro-tournaments like the world cup.

Germany is widely regarded as one of the tournament favorites, yet they are far from invincible. Portugal is more than capable of getting a positive result - and even a victory - when we are at our best.

no shot
2 Sunday, 15 June 2014 17:06
Antonio/ Viseu
Who are we kidn , we all know we don't have a prayer against ze Germanz. We'll watch n we'll wait till we're down 2-0 b4 we change the channel
Upset Coming Up
1 Sunday, 15 June 2014 16:52
Pedro Jose/New York, NY
I have a funny feeling an upset will be brewing...reminisce of Sergio Conceicao 3 goals against Germany...no pressure on Portugal, take risks - no need to play safe early on

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