Time for Germany to shine

Time for Germany to shine

GERMANY vs PORTUGAL

After so many near-misses, Joachim Loew's Germany are desperate to finally lift a trophy.

They were semi-finalists in 2006, runners-up in 2008, semi-finalists in 2010 and semi-finalists in 2012.

But, if they're if they are to go further and finally taste victory, they'll have to get past Portugal tonight (Singapore time) first.

It's impossible to consider Portugal without first considering Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Real Madrid superstar has had an incredible season.

He dragged his nation to this tournament, single-handedly dismantling Sweden in the play-offs. He played his part in the capture of a 10th Champions League title.

But, more than that, he finally wrestled the Ballon d'Or from Lionel Messi.

For a player so consumed with the pursuit of glory, this has been a magnificent year.

But, while success as an individual and as part of a club has never been hard to find, success as an international is yet to arrive.

Once again, Portugal will be reliant on his abilities. Up front, Helder Postiga is little more than a Trojan horse, deployed to lull the opposing defenders into a false sense of security, more distraction than attraction.

Ronaldo will seek to plunder the gaps his movement creates.

Portugal keep the ball well, with the midfield of Joao Moutinho and Raul Meireles as accomplished and composed as any you'll find in the tournament.

DEVELOPMENT

It will be fascinating, too, to see the development of William Carvalho, a Manchester United target ever since he came to prominence at Sporting Lisbon.

At the back, Portugal boast physical strength in abundance. Pepe may be one of history's greatest monsters, but he's indefatigable and ferocious. Alongside him, the mahogany wardrobe that is Bruno Alves is a formidable force.

Germany are unlikely to field a striker capable of matching that duo in the air, at least not from the start.

Miroslav Klose is the only recognised forward in the squad and is thought to be more of an option from the bench than a masterplan, even if he only needs two more goals to break Ronaldo's World Cup goalscoring record of 15 goals.

Loew is expected to use Mario Goetze as a false nine, attempting to draw Alves and Pepe out of position, with the likes of Mesut Oezil and Thomas Mueller lurking behind him.

This is where Germany excel. Few nations boast as much strength in depth in the central areas. For all that strength, Germany have been concerned by a spate of injuries, but they should be able to cope. Manuel Neuer is expected to start as planned. Philipp Lahm, the captain, has also recovered from an ankle injury and should be fit, though it remains to be seen if he will play in his conventional position as right-back, in central midfield or even as an auxiliary left-back if Loew opts against fielding Erik Durm. Durm was one of the silver linings to Borussia Dortmund's disappointing season.

ecimated by injuries, Juergen Klopp was forced to convert the striker to left-back and he was rewarded with Durm's excellent performance in last season's 3-0 victory over Bayern Munich.

Now, with injuries to Marcel Schmelzer and Marcell Jansen, he's found himself on the brink of representing his nation at the World Cup.

Germany are the brightest hope for Europe this summer, even more so since the Dutch annihilation of World Cup holders Spain.

An experienced, professional squad, they will be more than a match for anyone in the latter stages. But first, they have to reach the latter stages.

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