Portugal (0-0-0) vs. Germany (0-0-0), 12 p.m. (ET)
06/16/2014 9:40 AM
06/16/2014 9:46 AM
Salvador, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - Group G action starts with a bang as Portugal will square off against Germany at the Arena Fonte Nova on Monday.
Germany, the second-ranked team in the world according to FIFA rankings, headlines the "Group of Death," which also consists of Ghana and the United States.
The Germans are clear favorites to advance to the knockout round, but the runner-up spot appears to be up for grabs.
Portugal, the fourth-ranked team in the world according to FIFA rankings, will be looking to stake its claim by avoiding a potentially crippling defeat in its opening match.
Cristiano Ronaldo is working his way back from a knee injury, which is quite worrying for Portugal's hopes of advancing.
The Real Madrid star made an early exit from Portugal's training session on Thursday, leaving with an ice pack over his left knee. It adds some significance to the claim that he has not recovered from his knee tendinosis and that he will not be fully fit for the nation's clash with Germany.
Portugal is by no means a one-man team, but the argument could be made that no team in the tournament is as reliant on one player than Portugal is on the 29- year-old.
Still, midfielder Joao Moutinho said there was nothing to worry about concerning Ronaldo's health.
"Ever since he started to train with us he has been 100 percent like the rest of us," Moutinho said. "Everything is fine with him but there is some caution, not only with him. Today many other players were using ice as well. There is nothing to worry about. The ice is normal after training."
Moutinho was not the only one downplaying Ronaldo's injury concern.
Germany captain Philipp Lahm expressed his indifference regarding the fitness of an opponent, stating that his side will prepare for the match as if Ronaldo is sure to compete.
"With Ronaldo, I am taking it that he will play but it makes no difference to us," said Lahm. "He is an exceptional player but we are preparing normally as if he is going to play, as if he will be able to play and we think he will be able to play. For him too, it must be special to face us again, he must be desperate to finally beat us."
Portugal and Germany, of course, have a history of meeting in major competitions. The two nations were drawn into the same group in Euro 2012 with both sides advancing to the knockout round at the expense of Denmark and the Netherlands.
Germany were victorious when the two sides met in group play in that tournament with Mario Gomez scoring the lone goal of the affair, but with the Fiorentina striker left off the country's World Cup roster, Joachim Low is likely to deploy a team primarily consisting of versatile midfielders capable of occupying a "false No. 9" position.
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