PORTO SEGURO, Brazil - Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portugal teammates can expect to come under massive early pressure in their World Cup opener against Germany tomorrow.
Germany always prepares meticulously for its opening match at a tournament and has the results to show for it — winning 12 of its 17 World Cup openers and losing only once, 2-1 to Algeria in 1982. Germany bounced back to reach the final that year.
Coach Joachim Loew has made little secret of his game plan in the Group G match - to play high-tempo football right from the start and to wear down the Portuguese in the midday heat and humidity of Salvador.
Germany is based a short flight away in similar conditions on the Atlantic coast and has been training at the local kickoff time.
Loew has a healthy respect for Portugal and its star striker, calling Ronaldo's team a "world champion in counterattacking."
"They are ranked just behind us at No. 4 (Germany is No. 2), and they are not just about Ronaldo," Loew said. "Portugal is an extremely dangerous team."
Perhaps, but Portugal has not had much luck against Germany. 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 again 1-0 at the start of its Euro 2012 campaign.
"Still, they keep on reaching semifinals. They are a hard nut to crack," Loew said.
There have been some doubts about Ronaldo's fitness following a left-knee injury but FIFA's player of the year trained normally at the end of the week.
"You can't shut him down completely, he is a player who scores 50 goals a season," the Germany coach said.