It has been a little over six months since the World Cup draws. US fans were furious and even blamed a hidden hand in the emergence of Group G. In subsequent days, print and electronic media, especially in the US, carried conspiracy stories about FIFA’s game plan against the US football team. Analysts on TV talk shows and elsewhere aired their views on USA’s chances in the FIFA World Cup in the backdrop of the Yanks being bracketed along with Germany, Portugal and Ghana. The unanimous verdict was that USA might come off the competition at the group stage itself. The Group G was instantly branded as the Group of Death. Some fancy writers called it the Group of Grave. While the power football of Germany and Portugal was undisputable, USA found themselves with the irrepressible Ghanaians, popularly called as Black Stars in football parlance. The ignominy and heartache of USA’s elimination from the last two World Cups by Ghana could not be shaken off easily as the second Group G match got underway last night at the Estadio das Dunas in Natal. Despite serious misgivings against FIFA, USA managed to avenge their previous losses against the Black Stars and won the match 2-1 to a great relief of millions of US football fans. Earlier on the same day, Germany humiliated Portugal 4-0 in a match that saw Portugal displaying a wretched performance and playing like the ghosts of their true selves.
In the first Group G match between two giants of European football, it was easy to see why Germany is considered as favorites to win the 2014 World Cup. From the minute the Germans took to the field against Portugal, their superiority was evident. The coordination and balance of their play proved too much for Portugal. Almost the entire first half was played on Portugal’s side. The surgical precision of Germany’s clean game was in sharp contrast to the sloppiness of the Portuguese in the field. Their passing was awful and they failed to control the ball. Portugal’s world-famous star Cristiano Ronaldo was helpless without support from those around him. For Germany, Mueller opened the scoring in 12th minute, when Mario Goetze was needlessly brought down by Joao Pereira in the box and the referee had no hesitation in pointed at the penalty spot. Mueller coolly slotted from there to the right corner of the Portuguese goal. The Germans doubled their lead in the 32nd minute, when Hummels rose high to head-in a corner kick. Moments before the halftime, Mueller scored again after stealing the ball from Bruno Alves and firing a low shot. Earlier, the Portuguese were down to 10-men, when Pepe was red-carded for an entirely avoidable head-butt to Mueller. Earlier, in a deliberate foul, Pepe had struck his hand into Mueller’s face to bring him down and then head-butted him, when he was still sitting on the ground. Germany completed the rout and Mueller reached his hat-trick, after the Portuguese goalkeeper fumbled in making a save and Mueller drove-in the loose cannon from close range. Portugal played a listless game and couldn’t create any chances against their more formidable opponents. It was a performance they would like to quickly forget as they take on USA next on June 22.
For USA, it was more a relief than a resounding victory in their opener against Ghana. The tone was set by Clint Dempsey, who scored after less than half-a-minute from the start. Dempsey was fed a quick through pass by Jermaine Jones, after which the US captain covered lot of ground and beat the defenders on his way, before firing an angled left-footer into the Ghanaian goal. The match went on until only 8 minutes were left from the final whistle. Americans were taken aback, when Asamoah Gyan produced a lovely flick, which found Andre Ayew at the right spot in the American penalty box. Ayew finished neatly to level the score 1-1. Just as the game was heading to a tame draw, John Brooks became an instant hero with his 86th-minute header from the corner kick taken by Graham Zusi. The jubilant American had beaten their nemesis Ghana 2-1 for a great start to the 2014 World Cup.
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