Will Ronaldo Stop Germany Finally Shaking Off Their 'Bottlers' Tag?
Germany vs Portugal, that doesn’t sound too shabby, does it? Germany’s production line of extremely talented young players against a Portugal side powered by probably the most prolific footballer in the world at the moment in Cristiano Ronaldo.
There is a feeling in Germany that their current crop of players have been underachieving, having failed win a tournament since collectively breaking on to the scene after German restructuring lead to a more focussed development of their homegrown players. Both the playing staff and management were nurtured together, coming together down the line in order to promote harmony and a shared ideology, geared toward breeding another tournament winning side.
This time around, however, all has not been plain sailing, with several key players either injured or out of form. Marco Reus and Ilkay Gundogan, both of Dortmund, are huge losses, while playmaker Mesut Ozil’s form has been called in to question at both club and international level. Germany aren’t short of replacements though, and any excuses based around injury are sure to fall on deaf ears in their home press, and abroad.
Die Nationalmannschaft have almost the opposite problems as their opponents Portugal, who are almost entirely dependent on the form of Cristiano Ronaldo to have any chance of progressing. Now captain and national icon, Ronaldo dragged his country kicking and screaming to the tournament almost single-handedly against Zlatan’s Sweden, winning that particular war of egos. He’s been suffering with a long standing issue with his knee though, so whether or not he is fully fit will certainly be playing on the mind of those back home.
Portugal’s main problem is that they lack any sort of half-decent striker, with Ronaldo having to do all of the goalscoring from his free role. Helder Postiga, once Tottenham flop, is likely to lead the line, his main job though to distract the defence enough so that there’s increased room for Ronaldo to operate in. Portugal actually have a fairly competent midfield though, and half-decent defence, but nobody even close to the brilliance of Ronaldo, not the cohesion and understanding within the German ranks.
This game really is about how well Germany can assert themselves whilst nullifying Ronaldo, and it’s their game to win or lose. If they fail to dictate the game, they’ve under-performed, and any chances given to Ronaldo despite the fact we’re all well aware of what he’s capable of are inexcusable. Portugal will want to keep the game extremely tight, and Germany have to play expansively, whilst controlling possession, in order to overcome them.
Both of these sides look the most likely to make it our of their group, so a draw wouldn’t be a disaster, nor a surprise - but given everything else we’ve seen so far this tournament, nothing but a full-blooded encounter with both sides going for the jugular will be accepted.
To see if Germany can shake off their bottler tags, or if Ronaldo can win another international game single-handedly, the game kicks-off at 5pm on ITV.