So the Iran-Nigeria matchup will be…
Had you there for a minute, didn't I?
Although I am certain Iran and Nigeria will give it their all, that will not be today's Match of the Day. And despite the energy brought to the US team by head coach--and former German star--Jurgen Klinsmann and the intrigue over playing Ghana in a third consecutive World Cup, the US-Ghana clash is not Match of the Day.
Two words: Mannschaft. Seleccao.
Germany and Portugal tangle in Salvador, the same locale as the Netherlands' curb-stomping of Spain. The second-ranked team in the world goes up against a tough opponent and the top player in the world.
There are challenges for each team, to be sure. Germany carries more pressure as a nation than any other country (with the possible exception of home standing Brazil) to win the Cup. The footballers from the Fatherland also have been severed banged up as of late, with midfielders Lars Bender and Marco Reus ruled off the team due to injury. However, there is nary a Deutschlander begging off high expectations because of the injury bug. Philip Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and best-goalie-in-the-world Manuel Neuer also got nicked up during the domestic season, but all are back in form for the World Cup. And midfielder Sami Khedira came back in May from a severe knee injury, hoping to have enough moxie and mobility to make impact as he did in 2010 replacing Michael Ballack.
Portugal, however, begins and ends with striker and captain Cristiano Ronaldo and his hairdo that is more carved than styled. Germany's challenge will be containing Ronaldo without neglecting other deadly forces like midfielder Nani or striker Helder Postiga. Portugal, on the other hand, still carries raw hurt from their 1-0 exit from 2010 thanks to Spain, brought on largely by playing more cautiously than necessary. If manager Paulo Bento buries his biblically proverbial single talent in a field rather than using it (much like Carlos Quieroz was accused of in 2010), then expect Germany to exploit and attack with a vengeance, as players like Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podolski, Thomas Muller, and the ageless Miroslav Klose won't stay silent for long.
And then there is the historical edge for Germany. For whatever reason, the scales tilt toward the black, red, and gold, as Germany holds a 9 win, 3 loss, 5 draw edge over the Portuguese. For various reasons--and keeping my fandom for the Germans as far out of this as possible--I'm saying a tie should be the best Portugal should hope for at this stage. More realistically, I see a one-goal German win. But one thing that is for sure is a whole lot of talent and determination is on display in Salvador today in a heady Group H clash.