Clint Dempsey

2014 World Cup Preview: Group G

Group G - Germany, Ghana, Portugal, USA

Ranked 2nd in the world.
Qualified with a 9-0-1 record to win Group C in UEFA.

Since 1954, Germany has reached the quarterfinal in all but one World Cup, winning the tournament three times in 1954, 1974 and 1990. The lone time it didn't at least reach the quarterfinals was in 1978, which is also the last time the World Cup was in South America. In the last three tournaments, Germany has finished second once (2002) and third twice (2006 and 2010), reaching the precipice of lifting the trophy only to fall short in the biggest moments.

Of the 23 players on Germany's World Cup roster, 11 play for either Borussia Dortmund or Bayern Munich. They all know each other well and have competed at extremely high levels over the past few years on the club level. With players like Bastian Schweinsteiger (102 caps, 23 goals), Lukas Podolski (114 caps, 47 goals), Miroslav Klose (132 caps, 69 goals), Per Mertesacker (98 caps) and captain Philipp Lahm (106 caps), there is loads of experience on display for Die Mannschaft. Add in goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and midfielders Mario Gotze and Mezut Ozil, and there is talent all over the field.

Ranked 38th in the world
Qualified by going 6-2-0 in the Group Stage in Africa, then winning a two-legged playoff with Egypt.

This is the third consecutive World Cup tournament for Ghana, who has been a thorn in the side for the U.S., knocking the Americans out of the tournament in both 2006 and 2010. However, the Black Stars haven't enjoyed success after winning against the U.S., losing in the next round both years. Ghana has finished in the top four in the African Cup of Nations in each of the last four tournaments in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013.

There are recognizable names throughout Ghana's roster, including AC Milan midfielders Michael Essien and Sulley Muntary, Juventus midfielder Kwadko Asamoah and leading scorer Asamoah Gyan, who now plays for Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates. With Kevin Prince-Boateng acting as the central attacker in a 4-2-3-1 formation, Ghana has shown an ability to score goals in bunches.

Ranked 4th in the world
Qualified with a 6-3-1 record in the Group Stage in UEFA, needing a 4-2 playoff win over Sweden to reach the World Cup.

After reaching the tournament just once from 1966-2002, Portugal is now in its fourth consecutive World Cup after reaching the semifinals in 2006 and the Round of 16 in 2010. Like the 2012 European Championships, Portugal opens the World Cup this year against Germany. In the 2012 Euros, Portugal fell in the first match to Germany, but bounced back with two wins to reach the Knockout Stage, eventually losing to Spain in the semifinals.

Portugal relies heavily on the influence of Cristiano Ronaldo, and rightly so as he won the Balon d'Or as the best player in the world last year. The 29-year-old Real Madrid forward scored all four goals to lift Portugal over Sweden in the playoff. However, if he can't play due to a lingering knee injury that has limited in training in recent weeks, Portugal still has the talent to keep things interesting in the Group of Death. Helder Postiga of Lazio and Hugo Almeida of Besiktas are two more-than-capable forwards, while midfielders Nani, Raul Miereles and Joao Moutinho keep Portugal among the most dangerous teams in the tournament.

Ranked 13th in the world
Qualified with a first place finish in CONCACAF, going 7-2-1 in the Hexagonal Round

This is the seventh consecutive World Cup appearance for the Americans, peaking with a quarterfinal appearance in 2002. The U.S. seemed to catch its stride in qualifying and during the CONCACAF Gold Cup, despite playing with different lineups in both tournaments. The U.S. has a chance to exorcise demons in the opening match against Ghana, who has knocked them out of each of the last two tournaments.

The strength for the U.S. runs up the spine, with Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard in the back and Sunderland forward Jozy Altidore in the front, while Toronto FC's Michael Bradley and Sounders FC's Clint Dempsey provide the outlets from the midfield into the attack. Howard reached his landmark 100th cap in a friendly win over Nigeria on Saturday, also surpassing Kasey Keller as the all-time leader in wins.

Meanwhile, Bradley is the field general, Dempsey the creative-minded attacker and Altidore the clinical finisher who showed a return to form with two goals against Nigeria. The supporting cast for that foursome, which includes Sounders FC defender DeAndre Yedlin, will decide just how successful the Americans can be in a very difficult group.