Liam Hoden’s World Cup Watch: Yeehaw!

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U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Apologies, I’ve come down with a bad case of United States fever.

The Americans have invaded a foreign land and actually managed to win hearts and minds. How would have thought it?

In a World Cup of quite a few heartwarming stories, the impression USA have made on the competition is right up at the top.

It’s nothing to do with their style of play. Jurgen Klinsmann’s men haven’t really set the competition alight with their rather pragmatic football.

It’s all down to the spirit of it, both on the pitch and in the stands.

This is a team that has battled together to put themselves in an excellent position to qualify for the last 16. And with Belgium hardly firing on all cylinders, it is not hard to see them reaching the quarter finals.

There is a never say die attitude that has powered them through.

We’re not being battered with AMERICA YEAH! Instead we’re seeing genuine passion, knowledge and enthusiasm from their travelling band of supporters.

It turns out that quite a few of them actually like soccerball – they’re the best supported travelling team at the competition.

And the TV ratings back in the States are booming. The sport seems to finally be making an impression. Even Hulk Hogan has been tweeting about it!

So many times have we been warned that if the US actually caught the football bug, the rest of the world would soon find themselves in their wake.

Maybe this is the year it all starts. Pass me that chilli dog.

They need to make sure they get out of the group to keep this fever spreading. A draw against Germany will be enough. That’s Germany, where Klinsmann is a bit of a legend. Just saying.

The French marched on last night despite their goalless draw with Ecuador. It might has well have been a friendly for the French who were hardly playing a full pelt.

And Switzerland finally woke up by surviving their encounter with Honduras to earn a 3-0 win.

There was brilliance from Argentina but more exposure of their weak points as they ran out 3-2 winners in a thriller with Nigeria, who advanced regardless.

Bosnia-Hercegovina ended the Iranian dream with a 3-1 win which marked their first ever points at a World Cup.

TONIGHT’S GAMES

Group G: Portugal v Ghana, Brasilia, 5pm kick off, BBC Red Button; USA v Germany, Recife, 5pm kick off, BBC1.

We didn’t get two sides playing out for a draw yesterday but will we today?

Germany and USA will both advance with a draw in their game in rain-sodden Recife. Germany are managed by Joachim Low who was the apprentice to former boss Jurgen Klinsmann, now managing the US.

I wouldn’t suggest any shenanigans but when the clock ticks to 75 minutes and they two sides are level, would it be in either’s interest to push on for the win?

Like with so many groups in this World Cup, there are sides you are sad to see go. Ghana or the US would be a big loss the tournament given the impression both nations have made.

It’s not quite the same with Portugal who have been a damp squib. Cristiano Ronaldo’s injury issues have been hard felt while the loss of Fabio Coentrao has hardly helped.

The Portuguese need a bit of a miracle to advance but few will be cheering them on.

Permutations

A draw will be enough for both Germany and the US to advance. That would also see Germany advance as group winners.

Ghana need to beat Portugal to have a chance of qualifying, which could only happen if there is a winner in the Germany-USA clash. Ghana’s goal difference is currently two worse than the US and five worse than Germany.

Portugal can still qualify but would need to beat Ghana and hope for an five goal swing should USA lose or an eight goal swing should Germany be beaten.

Team news

Portugal v Ghana: Pepe is back in the fold for Portugal following suspension. Hugo Almeida and Helder Postiga are doubts. Ghana have sent home Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng for disciplinary matters, opening the way for Michael Essien to make his first start.

USA v Germany: The US are still without Jozy Altidore who has a hamstring issue and boss Jurgen Klinsmann is likely to name the same side that drew with Portugal. Germany have Jerome Boateng and Sami Khedira back while Thomas Muller is also ready to play despite suffering a facial wound against Ghana.

Betting

Portugal 5/6 Draw 7/2 Ghana 3/1

USA 15/2 Draw 2/1 Germany 4/6

Group H: Algeria v Russia, Curitiba, 9pm kick off, ITV4; South Korea v Belgium, Sao Paulo, 9pm kick off, ITV.

Belgium have somehow coasted into the Round of 16 despite being a bit of a disappointment at this competition

Everyone’s favourite darkhorses now look even more, er, dark after a couple of lacklustre performances.

While not wanting to exert themselves too much tonight, they will be looking for a performance to truly kick start their World Cup.

Fabio Capello looks set for another disappointing World Cup exit unless his Russia side can get past the exciting Algerians.

Russia have been predictably disjointed in this competition and few neutrals will be keen to see them advance, unlike opponents Algeria.

The Desert Foxes are out to qualify from their group for the first time in their history, and deservingly so after taking apart South Korea and only losing to Belgium at the death.

Permutations

Belgium are already through and a point against Algeria will be enough to see them as group winners.

Algeria are in pole position for the second spot, leading both Russia and South Korea by two points.

Victory for Russia would see them through provided they match or better a potential win for South Korea over Belgium.

A draw would be enough for Algeria to advance, provided South Korea do not beat Belgium by more than four clear goals.

Team news

Algeria v Russia: Algeria are likely to line up with the same side that beat South Korea. Fabio Capello is under pressure to use Aleksandr Kerzhakov ahead of Alexander Kokorin in the Russian front line. Alan Dzagoev could be back in midfield while Aleksei Kozlov is a doubt.

South Korea v Belgium: Divock Origi may be given the chance to stake his claim for a starting berth for already through Belgium with Romelu Lukaku failing to impress. South Korea need to win to have any chance of progression and with boss Hong Myung-Bo critical of his defence, Yun Suk-Young could sit out as well as Arsenal striker Park Chu-Young.

Betting

Algeria 3/1 Draw 5/2 Russia Evens

South Korea 4/1 Draw 11/4 Belgium 4/5