Unibet's expert on all things Germany Raphael Honigstein gives us the lowdown on the Nationalmannschaft ahead of their eagerly-anticipated first game of 2014 World Cup, whilst Portuguese football expert Tom Kundert is our guide to their gifted opponents...
Raphael Honigstein on Germany: Joachim Löw has revealed his full-line up a couple of days ago - sort of. There is no doubt about the back five (Manuel Neuer - Jerome Boateng, Per Mertesacker, Mats Hummels, Benedikt Höwedes), and the three central midfielders are definitely Philipp Lahm, in a holding role, with Sami Khedira next to him and Toni Kroos just ahead. Thomas Müller is a certain starter in one of the three attacking positions but the identity of the other two is not entirely clear. Some reports suggest Löw has left out Mesut Özil in favour of Andre Schürrle, others say that Lukas Podolski will line up alongside his Arsenal teammate.
Tom Kundert on Portugal: The biggest question mark is who will line up as Portugal’s centre-forward. Despite not finding the net, Braga’s Éder impressed in Portugal’s recent friendlies and could get the nod ahead of Hélder Postiga and Hugo Almeida. Portugal’s new midfield sensation William Carvalho will surely start, with Miguel Veloso likely to make way for the Sporting holder. Likely XI: Rui Patrício, João Pereira, Pepe, Bruno Alves, Fábio Coentrão, William Carvalho, Raul Meireles, João Moutinho, Nani, Éder, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Raphael Honigstein on Germany: Germany have not lost a competitive game since the 2-0 defeat by Italy at Euro 2012. The qualifiers were uneventful, apart from a 4-4 draw with Sweden (Germany had been 4-0 up) in Berlin - all other games were won. In this year’s pre-tournament friendlies, they narrowly beat Chile 1-0 and drew 2-2 with Cameroon, whilst Armenia were battered 6-1. There was also a 1-0 v Poland but that game was effectively contested by a B team due to Bayern and Dortmund players’ involvement in the DFB Cup final. They beat Portugal in the opener of Euro 2012 1-0 in a tight, fairly negative game.
Tom Kundert on Portugal: Portugal have won four and drawn one of their five friendly matches since clinching their World Cup berth in November’s playoff victory over Sweden. The 5-1 victory over Ireland in New Jersey last week was especially encouraging, with the Seleção playing some sparkling football rarely seen during a largely unimpressive qualifying campaign for Brazil 2014. Nani has seemingly found his mojo again, which is crucial to Portugal’s chances of success, especially given the injury concerns over captain Ronaldo.
WHAT THE MANAGERS SAY
Germany’s Joachim Löw: “We are a team of high quality and we have improved a lot when it comes to playing football. We’ll be hard to beat if we are able to perform at our level throughout the tournament. All players are 100 per cent fit.”
Portugal’s Paulo Bento: “Our World Cup preparations have gone well. We have the support of the local population behind us and we are ready for Germany.”
Raphael Honigstein on Germany: Philipp Lahm. The Germany captain will play in his third role at this third World Cup. After starring on the left in 2006 and the right in 2010, the Bayern Munich skipper is tasked to shore up the defensive midfield. He’s played the role with aplomb for Pep Guardiola’s side throughout the season and there’s no doubt that he help to bring some stability to an era where Löw’s teams have tended to struggle.
Tom Kundert on Portugal: Sporting’s William Carvalho burst onto the scene in spectacular fashion in 2013/14 as the player of the season in Portugal. His strength in the tackle and physical presence are two attributes Portugal’s midfield has lacked in recent years, and against a powerful side with multiple attacking threats his shielding of the back four will be crucial.
Raphael Honigstein on Germany: Thomas Müller to score at 3.15. The Bayern Munich forward/attacking midfielder is the one guaranteed starter in the attacking third and he will have a certain freedom to stay high up the pitch. The idea is for Germany to play with more pace but from a deeper starting point, not unlike in 2010. Müller scored five goals four years ago...
Tom Kundert on Portugal: Bruno Alves is Portugal’s highest ever goalscoring defender, having found the net 10 times for his country. Always a potent threat from set pieces, the giant defender is an excellent first goalscorer choice at 34.00 in what is likely to be a tight game which could well be decided by a dead ball situation.
Raphael Honigstein: 1-0 Germany at 8.50
Tom Kundert: Portugal also opened their Euro 2012 campaign against Germany, losing a tight game 1-0. Expect another closely fought encounter, another 1-0 scoreline, but this time the Iberians coming away with the three points. Portugal winning 1-0 is at 12.00.
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Watch Raphael Honigstein's views in our Group G preview video: