May 27, 1045 days ago

World Cup 2014 – Group G & H preview

World Cup 2014 – Group G & H preview

We have to wait five days before we get our first glimpse of the countries drawn in Group G and H of the 2014 World Cup. Of the eight teams involved, only Germany look to be a nailed-on certainty for the knockout stages with plenty of upsets possible in matches between the other nations.

Keep reading for our betting preview of Groups G and H.

Germany feel silverware is long overdue

If England have suffered with 48 years of hurt, Germany failing to win a tournament since 1996 is a similar drought. Joachim Low’s side have fallen at the semi-final hurdle in recent competitions and are heading to Brazil with a weight of expectation on their shoulders. They face Ghana, the USA and Portugal in Group G.

On paper, Germany boast arguably the strongest squad in the competition. They have a dizzying choice of attacking midfielders including Kroos, Gotze, Muller, Reus, Draxler, Schurrle, Ozil and Podolski many of whom have vast European and international experience.

Their lack of a central striker could be their undoing with 35 year old Miroslav Klose one of just two strikers to make the squad – although 68 goals in 131 caps is an impressive record. They should easily qualify for the knockout phase.

Portugal needed a play-off to qualify and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that their chances are in the hands of one man. Cristiano Ronaldo will need to carry his side if they are to do well in the tournament considering their lack of central striker and the fact many of their key players (Nani, Fabio Coentrao) haven’t been regulars at their clubs this season.

Their recent form has been good, though, and so Paulo Bento’s side can expect to make the knockout stages.

Ghana made the knockout stages in 2006 and the quarter-final in 2010 although their aging side may struggle to repeat those successes in 2014. The Black Stars have lost to Mali, Burkina Faso, Montenegro and Zambia during coach Kwesi Appiah’s tenure and are reliant on the midfield experience of Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari.

At the top of their form they could make the last 16 although it will be a tough ask this time.

The USA face a real uphill challenge this summer and could well end up with three defeats. While they may be energetic and technical, this is one of the weakest USA squads for some time and when Sunderland’s Jozy Altidore looks like a key player you have to fear for their chances. Back Germany and Portugal to qualify at 4/6.

Dark horses looking to justify punter’s faith

For a team that hasn’t qualified for the World Cup finals since 2002 and who have never won a major tournament, the odds on Belgium to triumph in Brazil look remarkably skinny. They are the 20/1 fifth favourites to win the tournament although first they will have to escape a tricky group. They face Russia, South Korea and Algeria in Group H.

While there are undoubtedly some good players in Marc Wilmots’ squad Belgium are nowhere near the tournament’s strongest team. Their form is also less than brilliant in that they haven’t won since last October and they recently lost to Japan in Brussels. I actually think they may struggle more than expected.

Russia have a mediocre record at major tournaments but have an old hand in charge this time. Fabio Capello’s side have lost just twice under the Italian’s tenure and he has a well-drilled and experienced group of players to call on.

The CSKA Moscow pair of Serggei Ignashevich and Vasili Berezutski prove stability at the back while young Alan Dzagoev is one to watch in midfield. I like their chances of qualifying for the last 16 at 2/5.

It is South Korea’s eighth successive appearance at the World Cup finals although this time they nearly failed to make it – ending the Asian qualification process one place ahead of Uzbekistan on goal difference. Former player and legend Hong-Myung Bo took over in July and has selected a squad who ply their trade as far afield as Japan and Bolton.

Going forward, South Korea could be brilliant to watch but it’s at the other end that they could have real problems. Expect their games to contain plenty of chances and goals – indeed backing them to concede most goals in Group H at 9/5 could pay dividends.

Algeria may have a reputation for defensive play – they were only one of two sides at the World Cup in 2010 that didn’t score – but that underestimates their current squad. They were the fourth highest scorers in African World Cup qualification and coach Vahid Halilhodzic prefers an attacking 4-3-3 formation.

I think Algeria will fall short of qualifying for the last 16 but they won’t be pushovers.

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