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Nigeria and Iran look for their first win since 1998
by Paul Kennedy, by Mike Woitalla, June 15th, 2014 5:46PM

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TAGS:  germany, portugal, world cup 2014

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[WORLD CUP PREVIEW: Monday] Group G play begins on Monday when Germany and Portugal meet in a repeat of their Euro 2012 opener won by the Germans, 1-0.

Germany-Portugal

Group G
Monday, June 16 | Salvador: Arena Fonte Nova. | Referee: Milorad Mazic (Serbia).
TV: ABC, Univision/UDN noon ET.

Germany and Portugal, ranked No. 2 and No. 4 in the FIFA rankings, head into the World Cup with big hopes. German keeper Manuel Neuer says Monday's game in Salvador will be like a final. But both teams also come into the tournament with lots of questions about the fitness of their players, Neuer included.

Neuer only recently returned to a German team that lost Marco Reus, one of its many young stars, with an ankle injury in its final World Cup warm-up, and has had injuries to other key players, notably Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm.

''Injuries can be a setback,'' said Germany coach Joachim Loew said. ''But, if we work well as a team, defensively and offensively, we have a great chance to get far in the tournament.''

Everyone's attention, though, will be on the player Germany has to stop Cristiano Ronaldo, and his injured knee. He is suffering from tendinosis and was seen leaving practice early in Thursday with an ice pack on his knee. But he said Sunday he was ready to go.

Portugal played without its three Real Madrid stars -- Raul Meireles, Pepe and Ronaldo -- until the final warm-up against Ireland in New Jersey.




Iran-Nigeria

Group F
Monday, June 16 | Curitiba: Arena de Baixada. | Referee: Carlos Vera (Ecuador).
TV: ESPN, Univision/UDN 6 p.m. ET.
Suspensions: Iran -- Hossein Mahini.

Nigeria and Iran are looking for their first World Cup win since 1998. That's when Team Melli won its only World Cup game, a 2-1 win that eliminated the USA in the first round, and Nigeria's Super Eagles reached the second round for the only time in four appearances.

Since its first-round exit in 2010, Nigeria has under Coach Stephen Keshi -- who captained Nigeria at USA '94, its first World Cup, and then moved to Northern California -- won the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations champion and went undefeated on the road to Brazil.

Emmanuel Emenike scored four goals in Nigeria's Africa Cup of Nations title win last year and several key goals in qualifying.

Iran is making is also making its fourth World Cup appearance and first since 2006. Its offense is motored by Reza "Gucci" Ghoochannejhad and Ashkan Dejagah, who grew up in the Netherlands and Germany, respectively, and represented those countries at the youth national team level.

Also in the Iran squad is defender Steven Beitashour, who was born and raised in California.

SA World Cup Previews:
Mike Woitalla: Group F

Tuesday ...

June 17 in Belo Horizonte
Group H: Belgium vs. Algeria
ESPN, Univision/UDN noon ET
June 17 in Fortaleza
Group A: Brazil vs. Mexico
ESPN, Univision/UDN 3 p.m. ET
June 17 in Cuiaba
Group H: Russia vs. South Korea
ESPN, Univision/UDN 6 p.m. ET


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