USAIt’d be fair to say Jürgen Klinsmann has mostly been a success during his time in charge of the American national team after guiding the team to their 5th Gold Cup title as well as finishing top of their CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying group. He has recently been rewarded with a contract to see the red, white and blue into the 2018 World Cup.
There have still been some questions over his tactical ability after some poor results against the likes of Jamaica, Honduras and Costa Rica. He has had to revise his early strategic plans after the possession style he tried to implement did not seem to suit players who were used to playing a more direct form of football, although a compromise seemed to have been found later on in the qualifying series. An impressive win in a friendly against Germany, albeit against what would almost be called a German C team, leaves Americans with a lot to be positive about.
Klinsmann has strengthened the depth of the side especially in the attacking areas, introducing the likes of Mix Diskerud, Aron Johannsson, Graham Zusi and Fabian Johnson who have all impressed for the side. The team still have areas Ghana can hope to exploit, Matt Besler and Brad Evans can be beaten for pace if asked to defend the flanks against Ayew or Atsu plus Beasley is not a natural full back and can be caught out of position.
None of their centre backs look particularly mobile either, meaning they may have to hold a deep defensive line to stop breaks in behind and, consequently, Ghana could dominate possession early on. Donovan and Dempsey are also reaching their twilight years and it remains to be seen if Dempsey will remain at the same level in the MLS as he was in the English Premier League.
Verdict: The overall strength of their squad had improved although it’s difficult to put forward an argument of their first eleven being much better than four years ago. By far and away Ghana’s best chance of getting a win in this group.
Not really much to write about here is there? Joachim Löw’s men went unbeaten in qualification, conceding 10 and scoring 36 although they somehow managed to concede 7 goals in two games against Sweden. Personnel wise, they are as impressive as ever with an almost horrifyingly scary pool of midfielders.
There are still some questions over who their main striker will be, if it isn’t Klose it’ll probably be Götze employed as a false nine. They almost certainly have the most complete squad in the group, as showed by their second string defeating England more convincingly than the 1-0 score line portrays. Quite frankly it’ll be a miracle if Ghana manage a win in this fixture and almost certainly the best result in Ghana’s footballing history so far.
Verdict: Clearly the most complete team in the group. Better than all sides in the group in every department. They can adapt easily in terms of tactics, have enough creativity to break down teams that sit deep, and if they go ahead against you they can be devastating on the counter. Hard to see Ghana getting a result.
With four goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal’s comfortable 4-2 win against Sweden still demonstrates an over-reliance on Ronaldo. Having scored 7 goals in 5 competitive games as well as coming off the back of an incredible 2013 Ronaldo is clearly in an amazing vein of form, but what about the supporting cast?
Paulo Bento’s team finished second to Russia, a solid outfit but not a side that would be expected to make it beyond the round of 16 next year. Couple that with poor performances against the likes of Israel and Northern Ireland and you can almost understand why, rightly or wrongly, they have been described as a one-man team.
With a solid defence including Pepe and Fabio Contreao and a decent midfield consisting of players like Miguel Veloso and Joao Moutinho, it’s difficult to see why they flatter to deceive until it comes to their front line. Thankfully for Ghana’s back line, goals may be hard to come by if they don’t come from Ronaldo. Portugal for many years now have been lacking a convincing number nine, and Nani’s form can fluctuate so greatly it’s hard to predict which Nani will turn up next June. Helder Postiga’s link up play can be decent though he’s not as prolific as previously, and Hugo Almeida is a target man who often adds little threat at all.
Ghana will still find it hard to get a goal against the solid Portuguese defence but a draw definitely is not off the cards, if they can stop Ronaldo…
Verdict: Talented but hugely inconsistent, If Ghana keep them at bay at half time nervousness can set in leaving them there for the taking.
This article was written by Theo Sakyi. You can follow him on Twitter.