RotoWire Partners

The Clean Sheets: Nick and Andrew Discuss Group G

Andrew M. Laird

Andrew M. Laird

Andrew M. Laird is the Senior Soccer Editor for RotoWire, as well as a fantasy football and college basketball contributor.

Nick Pitner

Nick Pitner

Nick Pitner writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire. He supports Arsenal FC, the Green Bay Packers, and the New York Knicks, while specializing in those respective sports in his coverage for the site.

-----Original Message-----
From: andrew@rotowire.com
Sent: Monday, June 2, 2014 6:41am
To: Nicholas Pitner
Subject: Cleaning the Sheets


I went to the USA vs. Turkey match at Red Bull Arena on Sunday and I came away mostly impressed with the squad we're sending to Brazil.

Unfortunately, Jozy Altidore looked a bit lost. Actually, not even "a bit," he looked completely lost. He hasn't scored in quite awhile (both for country or club) and I'm starting to wonder if we'll see more Aron Johannsson than we all initially anticipated. Could Jurgen Klinsmann have a short leash for Jozy against Ghana knowing that we absolutely have to win that match to give ourselves a chance to advance.

Germany is banged up right now but we don't play them until our third match, so you figure they'll be more fit by then. The semi-hope was that they would have already clinched a spot in the knockout round, thanks to wins over Portugal and Ghana, but now I'm not sure you can rely on that. Sure, they still have plenty of talent, but they are hardly an invincible force.

People tend to point to Bayern Munich as an example of what makes Germany so good, but let's not forget that Arjen Robben is Dutch, Franck Ribery is French, Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martinez are Spanish, Xherdan Shaqiri is Swiss, Mario Mandzukic is Croatian, David Alaba is Polish and Julian Green is American. Sure, there are still plenty of great players who represent Germany, but it's time to start looking at them as beatable, or at least drawable, opponents.

And while some people will try to argue that Portugal is more than Cristiano Ronaldo, let's be honest: it's Cristiano Ronaldo and 10 others on the field. And Ronaldo is currently banged up.

I like the U.S. opportunity out of Group G. What are your thoughts?

-----Original Message-----
From: Nicholas Pitner
Sent: Monday, June 2, 2014 2:10pm
To: Andrew M. Laird
Subject: Re: Cleaning the Sheets


I'm warming up to the USA's chances of making it out of Group G, but I will still be pretty surprised if they manage to do so.

Outside of the proven duo of Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey, the US could use some offensive firepower. Altidore hasn't scored in 2014 and completely flopped in his move to the Premier League this season. Back in Holland, Johannsson filled Jozy's shoes at AZ Alkmaar to the tune of 24 goals. Considering the importance of the opening match against Ghana, Klinsmann could certainly drop Altidore from the starting lineup; however, wouldn't Jozy's international experience be more reliable than Johannsson making his first World Cup appearance?

While the US attack raises a few questions, sorting out their defensive issues is like solving a Rubik's Cube. It's simply a mix-and-match group that would be doomed without Tim Howard - one of the world's best goalkeepers - manning the net. Defensive shortcomings are where I see America being exposed and eliminated.

In my opinion, Germany is undoubtedly the favorite to win Group G. Boasting steel in defense and countless gifted attackers, all Germany lacks is a top-class front man. With Miroslav Klose, the country's all-time leading goal scorer, declining at 35 years old, manager Jogi Low will most likely utilize a "false 9" up front and focus on dominating possession, a tactic Spain used to win Euro 2012. In any event, it's guess work to predict who will lead the Germans in scoring, especially with names like Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, Mario Gotze, and Marco Reus on the team sheet.

Portugal is definitely Ronaldo and Co., but am I crazy to suggest that dynamic could actually fuel their success? Essentially, Portugal is The Jackson Five. Ronaldo is Michael Jackson, openly commanding all the attention, while his peers punctuate the performance with under-the-radar contributions. Most importantly, everyone understands their role. That stability could prove beneficial in such a hectic tournament.

Then there's Ghana, the USA's World Cup kryptonite. In addition to eliminating the U.S. in back-to-back World Cups, the Black Stars were a Luis Suarez hand-ball away from reaching the semi-finals in 2010.



That being said, it's very difficult to beat the same team three times in a row in any sport. With that in mind, is the opening match versus Ghana a must-win for America?

-----Original Message-----
From: Andrew M. Laird
Sent: Monday, June 2, 2014 2:53pm
To: Nicholas Pitner
Subject: Cleaning the Sheets


It's definitely a must-win.

Howard had an interesting comment on Sunday that the overall inexperience of the team may be a positive. Very few of them have ever played Ghana, let alone lost to them in back-to-back World Cups, so maybe it's a plus that the team is in the middle of a makeover.

You obviously can't drop Jozy completely from the starting XI for the opener, but if he isn't doing anything in the first half, I wouldn't be shocked if Klinsmann made the call in the second for Johannsson.

So who do you think gets out other than Germany?

-----Original Message-----
From: Nicholas Pitner
Sent: Monday, June 2, 2014 4:55pm
To: Andrew M. Laird
Subject: Re: Cleaning the Sheets


I'd say Portugal joins Germany in advancing to the knockout stages. At 29 years old, Ronaldo is at the peak of his powers and fresh off a Champions League triumph. A Portuguese-speaking country, Ronaldo's teammates should be comfortable in Brazil, where the US travel schedule could prove too exhausting after a tightly contested opener against Ghana.

In all, Group G is brutal. No team can be taken lightly and survival will be a trying task for all parties involved.