Injuries leave Germany with little room for manoeuvre
Germans are still capable of fielding a strong starting 11 but room for tactical manoeuvre is threatened
would be the avoidance of any more injuries.
Löw had to travel without several regular squad members and has lingering doubts about the fitness of others with ongoing concerns such as Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira high on the list. Manuel Neuer, at least, seems to be fit again and Khedira has progressed well since returning from a long lay-off caused by knee ligament damage.
Schweinsteiger’s involvement, though, was still in doubt yesterday due to an ankle problem even if the coach insisted that a sudden helicopter ride to hospital at the weekend was essentially prompted by Fifa’s insurance requirements.
The Germans are still capable of fielding a strong starting 11 but their room for tactical manoeuvre is threatened, with Löw potentially naming a side today that includes an entire back four made up of natural centre backs.
A key consideration in moving Jérôme Boateng to right back would be to have him help to contain Ronaldo with Philipp Lahm chipping in from midfield, where he has been playing regularly for Bayern Munich. The thinking, in any case, is that the full-backs will not have the freedom to get forward here as they did during a qualifying campaign in which the Germans could do as they pleased.
Up front there are plenty of ifs and buts too, with Mesut Özil’s place in the side looking to be under real threat while Lukas Podolski could well start, having been talked up by his manager yesterday.
Things seem more straightforward in the Portuguese camp, with Paulo Bento not known for springing surprises. Defensive midfielder William Carvalho is set to start alongside Raul Meireles. After a good season and assuming Ronaldo is fit, the only real question is who makes way for the 22-year-old with Silvestre Varela the most likely to miss out, in part because of Nani’s strong showing against Ireland.
The Portuguese have lost to today’s opposition at three of the last four major championships. Oddly, the Germans’ strengths are not necessarily the things most likely to catch Bento’s men out – Portugal for instance are poor at defending in the air but Löw’s side didn’t score a single headed goal in qualifying. Still, they’ll start as favourites to today and should deliver unless Ronaldo has a very big game.