- Germany v Portugal
I am absolutely incredulous people are still picking Germany here. Learned people. Studied pundits. What gives? Germany snuck out of a poor group, losing to Croatia and not exactly overwhelming two very, very average sides. Poland and Austria were two of the weakest sides in the tournament.
Poland famously lost 3-1 at home to the USA a month before the tournament started, and poor Austria covered themselves in glory by not getting absolutely destroyed in every game. Home field advantage will do that for you.
Meanwhile Portugal quietly and efficiently qualified from their tough group, putting the Czechs and Turks to the sword, their loss to co-hosts Switzerland in a meaningless 'dead rubber' meant absolutely nothing, particularly seeing as it was Portugal's 'B' team.
Everyone talks about Germany's pedigree and experience, and their ability to rise to the big occasion. That's all well and good, however the team that stands in their way has a couple of things going for them the Germans don't. Namely, a great coach and the best offensive player in the world right now.
People are saying that 'Big' Phil Scolari, an absolute winner of a coach, will provide a distraction to the Portuguese, seeing as he is going to be managing Chelsea next season. I don't buy it. In 1996 the New England Patriots made it to the Superbowl against fancied Green Bay. Their head coach, Bill Parcells, had maneuvered an underhand deal to make him the coach of bitter rivals the NY Jets the next season, and this was announced just prior to the Superbowl. This did provide a horrific distraction and a rudderless Patriots team fell apart in the biggest game of their lives.
So therefore, you are probably thinking to yourself, Portugal are in big trouble tonight, right? I don't think so and here's why. First of all, the Scolari deal has been entirely above board and well publicised. This is not a shock to Portugal's players. Secondly, Scolari is an international manager, he wouldn't have seen his players for a long time anyway, at least until the World Cup qualifiers. It is simply not the kind of situation that allows for this dynamic to cause a distraction.
Then there is Ronaldo. Whilst playing well so far, he has not yet shown the explosive form he has shown all season long for Manchester United. He is due. It is entirely possible he will go off tonight on a slow, ageing German team. The closest the Germans have to a player of that ilk? The admittedly regal Ballack, however Portugal already have a player in his class, Deco.
Anyway, jibber jabber aside, time for a fearless prediction.
Portugal 2 Germany 0