After two successive back-to-back third place finishes in 2006 and 2010, Germany enter the 2014 World Cup as a team with the potential to win the whole tournament. The country's sweeping changes to its entire youth football system following a wretched showing at Euro 2000 are now paying dividends as the products of those changes make their way into the senior men's side. The likes of Mario Götze, Julian Draxler, and Matthias Ginter are all making their World Cup debuts, but the absence of Marco Reus will be felt after the player sustained a tournament-ending injury a week before the World Cup kicked off. Those who have already been around the block a few times are also in a challenging place — Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Manuel Neuer are all coming back from recent injuries — and with thirty-six year-old Miroslav Klose being the team's only true striker, Germany start their tournament in a much weaker position than they would have liked.
Portugal have a reputation for being a one-man team, but it takes an entire squad to end up fourth on FIFA's world rankings list, just two below opponents Germany. The key man as always is Cristiano Ronaldo, but questions about his fitness remain after recovering from an injury to his left knee. He's declared himself fit for the match, but the degree to which this is true will certainly impact Portugal's offerings going forward. Elsewhere on the squad, Liverpool fans will want to take special care not to be distracted by the glorious beard of former Red Raul Meireles.