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Wednesday, 11 June 2014

World Cup 2014 Group G Picks (June 16-26)

As much as the English media might not want to admit it, the real 'Group of Death' is Group G according to the FIFA World Rankings as these four teams have the lowest combined number of all the Groups at the World Cup. Three time former Winners Germany are looking to get back into the winner's enclosure having come close in the last three World Cup tournaments with two Semi Final places and a Runners Up to their name.

Germany will need to be ready to go immediately as they won't have an 'easy' game with Portugal, who made the Euro 2012 Semi Final, Ghana, who were a missed penalty from reaching the Semi Final of the 2010 World Cup, and an improving United States making up the numbers.

You can find my outright picks from the tournament here

Group A picks will be made here

Group B picks will be made here

Group C picks will be made here

Group D picks will be made here

Group E picks will be made here

Group F picks will be made here

Group H picks will be made here

Monday 16th June
Germany v Portugal Pick: The World Cup has produced goals for fun heading into the fifth day, but I have a feeling that this could be one of those games where we don't see a lot of goals as both Germany and Portugal know the importance of the first game in this Group of Death.

They met in the European Championships 2012 at the exact same stage of the competition in a game that ended with a Germany 1-0 win and the injury doubt about Cristiano Ronaldo has to make it a lot tougher for Portugal to score goals against an otherwise vulnerable backline.

Ronaldo will likely start, but there can't be a question as to whether he really is at full health and Portugal are very reliant on his goals so there could be a suggestion they would be better off letting their star player rest for the games against Ghana and the United States.

Portugal are well organised defensively and might back it difficult to be broken down by a team with a false nine formation, although the German midfield is very impressive and the names can be rolled off the tongue.

I think the draw is a big runner in this game with both nations likely to believe they can beat the other two in the Group, but the World Cup has produced enough attacking football that we are yet to see one of those. It may also be foolish to go against the current trend of the amount of goals going in with ten of the first eleven games all seeing at least three goals scored, but this might be one of the tighter first games of the Group and I will back two or fewer goals to be scored.

Ghana v United States Pick: Ghana have got the better of the United States in the last two World Cups in Germany and South Africa and they will be looking to complete a hat-trick in a fixture where the winner will likely challenge either Germany or Portugal for a top two berth and the loser will essentially be heading home at the end of next week.

That danger of losing the game may make this a tighter game than the layers are anticipating, especially if the conditions in Natal haven't shown any improvement over the last couple of days. Rain has been pouring to surpass the June average in Natal and it is also an area of Brazil that has stifling heat, although neither affected the Mexico and Cameroon game in the second game at the World Cup.

However, the conditions have apparently become a little tougher since that game and both Ghana and the United States will have to deal with the physical problems that brings and also the mental burden of concentrating in such an important game.

Ghana have proved to be a very tough team to break down in recent games and only 2 of their last 10 games have seen more than one goal scored in it, although they did concede early in friendly losses to Montenegro and Netherlands. There is a chance the United States could catch them cold, which would open up the game, but if this game is scoreless heading to half time, the trend of recent Ghana games may continue.

The United States have been scoring a fair few goals in their own friendlies, while also conceding goals, but their pressing game may slow down in the heat and humidity, and the rain may make it harder for both teams to really get their football going.

It has the makings of another game that might not need a lot of goals to separate them and a small interest in another low scoring game is my pick.

As well as Germany played in their dismantling of Portugal to open Group G, you can't help but feel incredibly disappointed with the latter, especially the crazy antics of Pepe who was sent off for head-butting Thomas Moller while his side were 2-0 down.

Pepe has always been a little stupid for want of a better word, but that was a stunning indiscretion and talk about leaving your side in the lurch. Now the rumours are surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo's health and Portugal are going to be ten times better if they have any chance of progressing to the Second Round.

They weren't helped by a late United States winner over Ghana in a game the draw would have suited Portugal down to the ground. The USA were fortunate, very fortunate, to win that game against Ghana with the Quarter Finalists of four years ago having the majority of the play in the second half.

A late equaliser looked to have saved Ghana, but they conceded with five minutes left and look certain to be heading home now they have Germany and Portugal left to play.

Germany v Ghana Pick: Ghana conceded after just twenty-three seconds of their opening game at the World Cup which was a stunning lapse of concentration, but there is also something of a trend developing as they have conceded in the first five minutes of three of their last four games.

Going behind to this German team with the counter-attacking football they love to play would be curtains for Ghana as far as I am concerned and they have to know that any kind of positive result will give them a semblance of a chance of qualifying for the Second Round.

Germany will also know the importance of finishing top of the section and avoiding a potentially awkward Second Round match against Belgium who look the pick of the sides in Group H, although they have to be concerned that they are not the third favourite to fall flat in Fortaleza. This ground saw Mexico hold Brazil to a draw and also Costa Rica beating Uruguay, so Ghana have to feel they can become the third underdog to show off their bite.

Personally I am hoping for Germany to top the section because I am already thinking ahead to a potential Quarter Final against France, on my birthday no less, and they have the attacking threat to really put Ghana to the sword.

In the first game, I noticed the amount of men Ghana were sending forward in their attacks when chasing the game and Germany have the speed and quality to punish them. The game finished 1-0 when Germany met Ghana in the Group Stage in South Africa four years ago, but I expect this to be a little wider margin if Ghana are chasing and will back Germany to win by two or more goals.

USA v Portugal Pick: The way the results went in the first couple of games in Group G, there is every reason to believe the United States would remain satisfied with a draw from this game even if Ghana would still have a chance to qualify for the Second Round if that was the case.

At the end of the day, the USA would surely chance the fact that Portugal would have a lot to play for in the final games in the Group and the States have a big goal difference boost on Portugal thanks to the German 4-0 win over the latter.

The United States play a high pressing game, but they did look tired by the end of the first game against Ghana and the feeling is that they were incredibly fortunate to win that game. It might be strange to some people, but I actually think the Ghana energy in the forward positions is better than Portugal who must also be wondering whether they are going to see the best of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Too often it feels that Portugal are looking towards their talisman to produce something special to win a game and I think the USA will be aware of that, while also being clever enough to not commit too many players forward and allow space for the counter-attack.

It is a fascinating game because winning the Group is a real possibility for the United States, but Jurgen Klinsmann strikes me as a pragmatist and a draw would not bother him in the slightest knowing he could perhaps go for the draw in the final game against his home nation. That would mean both the USA and Germany going through regardless of what happens in the other game in the Group and I think Klinsmann would see a place in the Second Round as a success.

The feeling I have is we are going to see a tight, tense game, which has been more a feature of the second round of games compared to the first set, and I think seeing two goals or fewer could be the situation in this game. It might take a moment of magic from someone to ensure a winner, but under 2.5 goals looks to be a little under-rated in the situation.

A late, late goal from Sebastian Varela saved Portugal from an exit from the World Cup, although they are firmly behind the black ball going into the final round of games. Portugal need to record a big win over Ghana and hope Germany can beat the United States if they are to overturn the USA for a place in the Second Round.

It won't be easy if Ghana play anything like how they did against Germany in their last game when they pushed the latter all the way in a 2-2 draw. That also means Ghana can win this game and will have a chance to overturn the USA as long as the States lose to Germany.

Of course, the conspiracy theorists have pointed out a draw would suit Germany and Jurgen Klinsmann's United States team where both will go through and Germany would win the Group. Memories of 1982 and the disgust shown to Germany and Austria should keep this competitive for at least the first hour, although there is every chance the teams settle for what they have in the closing stages.

Portugal v Ghana Pick: Disclaimer: I think Portugal are a very average team and Ghana should be able to cause plenty of problems, but this is a camp in disarray and the team were obviously more concerned with their bonus money than concentrating on getting through to the Second Round.

It is remarkable that players can think that way at this ultimate level for their professions, while Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng have both been suspended for training issues. The latter also challenged the authority of the manager and that is a big problem for Ghana as they look to at least win this game to give themselves a chance of qualifying for the Second Round.

Simply backing Portugal to win doesn't make the most sense though because they have to keep searching for the goals that can overturn their poor goal difference after losing 4-0 to Germany and there is the chance they are caught even if they are ahead.

The layers understand the situation of the game so the odds for goals are short, but I think backing Portugal to get on a roll against a team that might not 'fancy' the occasion could be the right call. A small interest in Portugal scoring at least three goals and giving themselves a chance is the pick.

United States v Germany Pick: I was one of the conspiracy theorists that immediately pointed to the chance for a draw in this game following the United States draw with Portugal, although I am less convinced now.

For starters, I don't think there is much love lost between the two managers and Joachim Loew won't want to see Germany move into the Second Round without a win from the last two Group games. I also think there is more desire in the German camp to make sure they get through in top spot and not 'settle' for draw that will take them there.

The quality in the German midfield should give them every chance to win the game against the USA if the latter make the defensive mistakes that cost them the win over Portugal and there is also the factor that the USA are coming in from a game in Manaus.

Teams have struggled in their next game having played in the middle of the Amazon and that could be telling in this game where the USA would likely even settle for a close loss if the other game in the Group is going their way.

Germany won't want a repeat of the Ghana result and I look for them to move into the Second Round, avoiding Belgium in the process, with a win.

GROUP G PICKS: Germany-Portugal Under 2.5 Goals @ 2.15 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Ghana-United States Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.92 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Germany - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units) versus Ghana
USA-Portugal Under 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Portugal Over 2.5 Team Goals @ 2.80 William Hill (1 Unit) versus Ghana
Germany @ 1.73 Coral (2 Units) versus United States

Group G Update: 0-3, - 6 Units (6 Units Staked, - 100% Yield)

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