World Cup 2014: Guide to Germany's Group G

GERMANY (seeded)

How do they play?

Style & formation: Blessed with far more flair than many Germany sides of the past, their fluid 4-2-3-1 is underpinned by Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira - recently back from a long-term injury - anchoring the side from the base of midfield.

Ahead of them lies creative fulcrum Mesut Ozil, who is likely to be flanked by Thomas Muller plus one from a number of other options. Marco Reus, a likely starter, withdrew through injury on 7 June.

Strengths: They have an incredible array of attacking midfielders that guarantee goals. Manuel Neuer can lay claim to being the world's best goalkeeper and Philipp Lahm, whatever position he plays in, brings calmness and tactical nous along with his vice-captain Schweinsteiger. The free-scoring Muller has a priceless knack of being in the right place at the right time.

Weaknesses: More than you'd imagine. Left-back is an issue for coach Joachim Low, while the defence as a whole has been porous of late and was given a torrid time by Chile's movement in a friendly in March. Khedira and Schweinsteiger have had injury-hit seasons and can Ozil shake off his Arsenal torpor?

Miroslav Klose is just one goal shy of Ronaldo's all-time World Cup finals tally of 15, but turning 36 means his powers are surely on the wane.

Key player

Philipp Lahm was described by Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola this season as "the most intelligent player I've ever coached". The best right-back in Europe over the last decade has made a seamless transition this season under the Bayern boss into the Sechser (sixer) position in midfield and may well do the same for Germany.

One to watch

Borussia Dortmund's Erik Durm has been transformed from a forward into a full-back over the last year, and his club manager Jurgen Klopp has called him an "extraordinary talent".

Blessed with incredible stamina and pace, 22-year-old Durm has usurped Marcel Schmelzer at left-back for club and country.

The boss

At the helm since 2006, Joachim Low signed a new contract until 2016 earlier this year but the pressure is on to win a trophy after some agonising near-misses. His win percentage is the highest of any Germany manager.

How they qualified

Germany breezed through their qualifying group, only dropping points in a bizarre 4-4 draw with Sweden - having led 4-0. They scored 36 times in 10 matches, with seven of their attacking players totalling three goals or more.

World Cup record

Germany have reached the final seven times, winning for the third time in 1990.

Runners-up in 2002, they were third in 2006 and 2010.

Fifa ranking: 2

Germany's typical starting XI

Possible starting XI

Squad

Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Roman Weidenfeller (Borussia Dortmund), Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover)

Defenders: Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich), Erik Durm (Borussia Dortmund), Kevin Grosskreutz (Borussia Dortmund), Benedikt Howedes (Schalke), Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund), Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich), Per Mertesacker (Arsenal), Shkodran Mustafi (Sampdoria).

Midfielders: Julian Draxler (Schalke), Matthias Ginter (Freiburg), Mario Gotze (Bayern Munich), Christoph Kramer (Borussia Monchengladbach), Sami Khedira (Real Madrid), Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Andre Schurrle (Chelsea), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich).

Forwards: Miroslav Klose (Lazio), Lukas Podolski (Arsenal).

PORTUGAL

Team profile: Portugal

Prospects

With Cristiano Ronaldo in your team, the sky's the limit. However, getting out of a very tricky group will be their primary objective before they can start thinking of a potential quarter-final against Argentina. The likes of Pepe and Joao Moutinho give them a strong spine, but they remain without a world-class striker, meaning the goalscoring burden rests with Ronaldo.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Will Cristiano Ronaldo finally bring his club form to the World Cup stage in Brazil?

They could be forgiven for thinking they are playing in Lisbon such is the expected level of support for them from the Brazilian public. There have been too many laboured team displays since they were beaten on penalties by Spain in their Euro 2012 semi-final.

Key player

Who else but CR7? Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo scored 51 goals in 47 club appearances this season and already has a museum dedicated to him. Debate rages about who is better out of him and Lionel Messi, but in Portugal they now argue over who wins out of Ronaldo and Eusebio.

However, carrying injuries into this tournament won't help his bid to right the wrongs of two disappointing World Cups for him in 2006 and 2010.

One to watch

Blessed with a calmness that belies his 21 years, William Carvalho made an ice-cool debut off the bench in the play-off second leg against Sweden.

The Angolan-born defensive midfielder has had a superb first season in the first team at Sporting Lisbon and the likes of Manchester United have been circling. A Sporting fan, he famously turned Benfica officials away from his house when they tried to sign him as a 13 year old.

The boss

Paulo Bento was banned for six months after he manhandled officials during a controversial Euro 2000 semi-final with France but he has matured into a top-class coach. Capped 35 times, he has the respect of his players and his greatest triumph has arguably been getting Cristiano Ronaldo, his former team-mate at Sporting Lisbon, to replicate his extraordinary club form on the international stage.

Derided in some quarters for so-called negative tactics, he recently had his contract extended to the end of Euro 2016.

How they qualified

They progressed via the play-offs for the second successive World Cup, with Ronaldo's hat-trick against Sweden equalling Pauleta's national record 47-goal tally, which he has since broken.

They only lost to Russia in their group but finished second after drawing with Northern Ireland and Israel, twice.

World Cup record

Portugal are heading to their sixth World Cup. They came third on their debut in 1966 and were also semi-finalists in 2006. Three years ago, they lost to eventual champions Spain in the last 16.

Fifa ranking: 4

Squad

Goalkeepers: Beto (Sevilla), Eduardo (Braga), Rui Patricio (Sporting).

Defenders: Andre Almeida (Benfica), Bruno Alves (Fenerbahce), Fabio Coentreo (Real Madrid), Joao Pereira (Valencia), Neto (Zenit), Pepe (Real Madrid), Ricardo Costa (Valencia).

Midfielders: Joao Moutinho (Monaco), Miguel Veloso (Dinamo Kiev), Raul Meireles (Fenerbahce), Ruben Amorim (Benfica), William Carvalho (Sporting).

Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Eder (SC Braga), Helder Postiga (Lazio), Hugo Almeida (Besiktas), Nani (Manchester United), Rafa (Braga), Varela (FC Porto), Vieirinha (Wolfsburg).

GHANA

Prospects

Team profile: Ghana

The Black Stars were fancied to repeat, or even improve on, their run to the quarter-finals in 2010 in Brazil. That was until the draw was made and they were pitted with the world's second and fourth-ranked sides.

However, confidence is not an issue in the Ghana camp and why should it be? Their team, offensively at least, is packed with experience and world-class talent. Michael Essien's return has been crucial, while Asamoah Gyan's time in the Middle East hasn't blunted his goalscoring touch.

Key player

Michael Essien's return from international exile came just at the right time for Ghana. 'The Bison', who says he sleeps for "up to 12 hours a day" was certainly wide awake during the epic play-off thrashing of Egypt where he reminded everyone just how an effective and tactically adept midfielder he is. He has a special bond with Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, who says he would play him in any position bar "goalkeeper or striker".

One to watch

Kwadwo Asamoah has quietly established himself a key man for both club and country.

At Juventus, where he has won two titles in two seasons, the midfielder is described as "irreplaceable" by manager Antonio Conte. He has won Ghana's Footballer of the Year award for the last two years.

The boss

Former Ghana captain James Kwesi Appiah spent four years as assistant with the national side before his promotion. Softly spoken and unassuming, "I'm a coach who doesn't talk that much", the Ghana players have nicknamed him the 'Silent Killer' and he certainly isn't afraid to take on the big names in his dressing room if they step out of line.

He wasn't a popular appointment originally, as he wasn't deemed to be high profile enough. He is the first Ghanaian to lead his nation at a World Cup.

How they qualified

Having won their group with five wins out of six, Ghana thrashed Egypt 6-1 in the home leg of their play-off to ensure a 2-1 loss in the return leg was academic.

They ended as the top scorers in African qualifying with 25 goals.

World Cup record

In 2010, Ghana seemed certain to become the first African semi-finalists after Uruguay's Luis Suarez was sent off for handling on the line in the dying seconds of extra-time. However, Asamoah Gyan missed the spot-kick and Ghana then lost the penalty shootout.

Brazil will be their third successive finals, having first qualified in 2006 when they went on to reach the last 16.

Fifa ranking: 37

Squad

Goalkeepers: Fatau Dauda (Orlando Pirates), Adam Kwarasey (Stromsgodset), Stephen Adams (Aduana Stars).

Defenders: Samuel Inkoom (Platanias), Daniel Opare (Standard Liege), Harrison Afful (Esperance), John Boye (Rennes), Jonathan Mensah (Evian), Rashid Sumalia (Mamelodi Sundowns).

Midfielders: Michael Essien (AC Milan), Sulley Muntari (AC Milan), Rabiu Mohammed (Kuban Krasnodar), Kwadwo Asamoah (Juventus), Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu (Udinese), Afriyie Acquah (Parma), Christian Atsu (Vitesse), Albert Adomah (Middlesbrough), Andre Ayew (Marseille), Mubarak Wakaso (Rubin Kazan).

Forwards: Asamoah Gyan (Al Ain), Kevin-Prince Boateng (Schalke 04), Abdul Majeed Waris (Valenciennes), Jordan Ayew (Sochaux).

UNITED STATES

Team profile: USA

Prospects

Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann says the minimum aim is to reach the knockout stage, and a national record 16 wins in 2013 - including against an admittedly depleted Germany - gives cause for confidence.

Defence is a concern and then there's the lack of continuity - 37 players were used in qualifying.

Key player

Jurgen Klinsmann

US coach Jurgen Klinsmann scored 11 goals in three World Cups for Germany in the 1990s.

With eight goals during the qualifying campaign, and 36 in 103 caps, captain Clint Dempsey continues to provide the attacking thrust he demonstrated so regularly in the Premier League with Fulham and Tottenham. An honourable mention, too, for Sunderland forward Jozy Altidore, who excelled during the final qualifying group phase.

One to watch

Nicknamed 'Zeus', Graham Zusi has made lightning quick progression in international football.

The right-sided midfielder is a gifted passer and deadball specialist, and his tremendous work ethic makes him a Klinsmann favourite. He is not just popular in America, in Mexico he is known as San Zusi (Saint Zusi) as his goal against Panama helped Mexico make it to Brazil.

The boss

Since taking over three years ago former Germany player and head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has led the US to a series of notable results. These include their first victories away in Italy and in Mexico, a debut win in Jamaica in a World Cup qualifier and a victory over his native Germany.

This, plus a record-breaking 12-game winning sequence in 2013, led to his contract being extended to end of the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia. His new deal, signed in December 2013, also gives him the extra title of the US Soccer Federation's technical director.

How they qualified

They recovered from an opening 2-1 defeat by Honduras to finish four points clear at the top of the six-team final group phase, winning all five home matches.

World Cup record

The USA will be playing in their 10th World Cup, and seventh in succession.

They were third in 1930 and quarter-finalists in 2002, losing 1-0 to Germany.

Fifa ranking: 13

Squad

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake).

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Nuremberg), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders).

Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City).

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes).

Fixtures

16 June 2014

Germany v Portugal, Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, 17:00 (ITV)

16 June 2014

Ghana v United States, Arena das Dunas, Natal, 23:00 (BBC)

21 June 2014

Germany v Ghana, Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza, 20:00 (BBC)

22 June 2014

United States v Portugal, Arena Amazonia, Manaus, 23:00 (BBC)

26 June 2014

United States v Germany, Arena Pernambuco, Recife, 17:00 (BBC)

26 June 2014

Portugal v Ghana, Estadio Nacional, Brasilia, 17:00 (BBC)