Neuer: Playing Portugal will be 'like a final'
SALVADOR, Brazil (AP) For Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, playing a team of Portugal's caliber and featuring a star of Cristiano Ronaldo's class gives their World Cup group opener the feel of a game with a higher status.
''After that match, we will really know where we stand,''Neuer told a news conference Sunday on the eve of the Group G encounter. It's a rematch of the Euro 2012 opener, when Germany beat Portugal 1-0.
Three points in this match will go a long way toward helping the winner advance from a group that also contains Ghana and the United States.
''In a way, it's almost like a final,'' said Neuer, who was feeling upbeat after recovering from a shoulder injury.
Ronaldo is likely to play, despite lingering knee problems, and Neuer said if the Portugal forward is fit ''he will be the top danger for our team.''
Germany Coach Joachim Loew agreed, saying Ronaldo and his teammates ''are the kings of counter-attacks.''
''This is the match between the 2nd- and the 4th-ranked teams - that tells it all,'' Loew said, referring to the FIFA world rankings that list his team at No. 2, two spots ahead of Portugal.
However, Portugal has not had much luck against Germany at major tournaments. Germany won 3-1 in the match for third place at the 2006 World Cup, beat Portugal 3-2 at the 2008 European Championship and won the Euro 2012 opener.
Loew has made no secret of his game plan - to play high-tempo football from the start and to wear down the Portuguese in the midday heat and humidity of Salvador.
''We are a team that will be difficult to beat,'' Loew said, despite the fact that his defense has been hit by injuries that could lead to some significant reshuffles in the back line.
''Injuries can be a setback,'' he said. ''But, if we work well as a team, defensively and offensively, we have a great chance to get far in the tournament.''
Usually a right back, captain Philipp Lahm, who missed most of the training camp with an ankle problem, is likely to move into a defensive midfield role.
Sami Khedira is expected to be the other defensive midfielder, but he lacks match practice after missing six months with a knee injury. Bastian Schweinsteiger will probably be on the bench as he has been nursing a knee injury as well.
''We had some injury problems, but that is all solved now,'' Loew said.
He declined to reveal his starting lineup, but said all of his players can't wait for the match to begin.
''We had some palpable tension within the team, but that is all gone now,'' Loew said. ''Today, we are in the fever of the World Cup.''