World Cup, Day 5: USA, Germany, Portugal in action!

USA TODAY Sports

Monday has been eagerly awaited here in the USA, as the USMNT goes into action against their recent nemesis, Ghana. Oh, Germany and Portugal play each other, too. As for Iran v Nigeria...

Monday should be really tasty, as (one of) the Groups of Death begins.

12 noon ET:  Portugal vs Germany, Group G

Location: Salvador

Weather: Should be in high 70s, but humid and/or rainy.

Villarreal connections: Absolutely none.  We have played against a lot of these guys, for what it is worth.


Transfer targets: Are you kidding?  Most of these guys play in the Bundesliga, EPL, or for Madrid.  Seriously, I can't think of anyone.

Quick preview: With Portugal, you know what you've got--Cristiano Ronaldo and a supporting cast.  Which generally takes you only so far.  Germany--they are a trendy pick to go to the final, I guess, but this is not the best, or most balanced, Germany side. They do have a great midfield, but Miroslav Klose as the only striker?  I mean, he's about 80, isn't he?

Prediction: I think both these teams are going to be kinda careful for the first half, open it up in the second.  I've never been wild about Rui Patricio, Neuer is much better, so 2-1 Germany.

3 PM ET: Iran vs Nigeria, Group F

Location: Curitiba

Weather: Humid (chance of a storm) but only in the 60s as far as temperature goes.  Is that allowed?

Villarreal connections: None, since Ike Uche and Stephen Keshi don't get along.

Transfer targets: None identified, but see below.

Quick preview:  As Sid would say, I've got nothing, but I'll try anyway.  Carlos Queiroz manages Iran, which is good; their captain is ex-Osasuna man Javed Nekounam, whom I've always liked; and they have a striker, Reza Ghoochannejichad, who played in Dutch youth squads and is now with Charlton in the English Championship.  (He was also a childhood prodigy as a violinist, and studied political science in college--an unusual resumé).

Nigeria...well, I haven't seen them play this year at all, but I'm not expecting much.  Their goalkeeping is always suspect and they have so much political interference in the management of the team that I don't even know if the best players are here.  Worth watching though because most of their players are not in large leagues so might want to come to Villarreal (they do have one La Liga player in their midst, Ramon Azeez from Almeria!).  Who knows, they could spring a surprise or two.

Prediction: Absolutely no idea.  How about a 1-1 draw, since we haven't had one yet.

6 PM ET: United States vs Ghana, Group G

Location: Natal

Weather: High 70s temerpature, and either it will have just been raining, will be raining, or will shortly rain.

Villarreal connections: Two ex-players, one for each side.  Jozy Altidore hasn't done anything at Sunderland this season,but his holdup play could be crucial to Team USA's success today.   Wakaso Mubarak will be on the bench for Ghana; he currently plays for Rubin Kazan.

Transfer targets: None in particular, though both these teams (USA especially) have players who might relish the step up to La Liga.

Quick preview: The USA has some strength up the middle--Michael Bradley is an excellent midfielder, Clint Dempsey an energetic and physical finisher, and Tim Howard is an excellent keeper.  Jozy Altidore--four years older, maybe wiser as far as his ability to hold up the ball and look for runners.  The back four is a bit suspect, though.  As for Ghana, how good are they really?  Of all the African teams they tend to be the best coached, the most tactically minded, and they certainly have a bevy of more-or-less interchangeable players, who are all very good.  But do they have that special someone?  I'm not sure.

Both sides feel confident they can win this match, and given the other two teams in the group, they're going to have to try to.

Prediction: It's tough to beat a team three times in a season.  How about in three World Cups?  I'm going with 2-1 to USA, which Ravi also predicts; Sid says 1-1.

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