Germany kick-off their World Cup campaign Monday, aiming to continue their domination of Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal at recent major tournaments.
The Germans enjoyed wins over Portugal at the 2006 World Cup, plus both of the last two European championships and would want to get their Group G campaign off to a flying start with a fourth consecutive win.
The pre-match build up in Salvador has focused on whether or not Ronaldo will be fit to play at the Arena Fonte Nova after knee and thigh injuries.
The 29-year-old took a full part in Portugal’s training session on Saturday with teammates William Carvalho and goalkeeper Eduardo both saying he will play.
All eyes have been on the world player of the year’s recovery, as the Real Madrid forward, whose form and fitness will be vital to Portugal’s chances, has had a heavy strapping in training.
Germany midfielder Sami Khedira claims his Real Madrid teammate has told him this is Portugal’s time to break their German bogey.
However, Arsenal forward Lukas Podolski says the Germans respect dead-ball specialist Ronaldo, but there is no fear.
“We have prepared ourselves to play Portugal and not just one player,” said Podolski, who is set to win his 115th cap.
“He is certainly extremely dangerous and can decide games, but we also have players capable of doing that. If we produce a good performance, then it doesn’t matter what he does.”
The million-dollar question is whether Germany can recreate their standard from four years ago, when they finished third after hammering Argentina and England en route to the semi-finals.
Nigeria face Queiroz-led Iran
Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi believes getting the better of his opposite number Carlos Queiroz will be the biggest challenge for his side as they take on Iran in their World Cup opener in the early hours of Tuesday.
The Super Eagles have taken just two points from six matches in their last two appearances at the World Cup, but have higher hopes this time around after winning the African Nations’ Cup last year.
“I think their coach is their biggest weapon, because he’s well experienced and knows the game well,” said Keshi.
“For the Iran game we have to be focused. We have to concentrate and do our job. We’re not going to take Iran lightly..”
Ghana favourites to outplay US
Ghana will kick off their World Cup campaign in Natal tipped to beat the US Tuesday morning, but their bid for a coveted semi-final place could prove a much harder task.
Coach Kwesi Appiah’s side features a host of big names who ply their trade in Europe, from Juventus wingback Kwadwo Asamoah to AC Milan midfield pair Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari, Schalke forward Kevin-Prince Boateng and striker Jordan Ayew, who plays for Marseille.
The US, coached by former German great Jurgen Klinsmann, face a tougher task to impress their critics.
Veteran midfielder Kyle Beckerman watched Ghana in a recent 4-0 friendly win over South Korea, and was impressed: “They looked really good. They’re strong, fast and technically good.”