Cristiano Ronaldo makes his 2014 World Cup bow at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador this afternoon as Portugal go head-to-head with fellow European heavyweights Germany in one of the most mouth-watering fixtures of the group stages.
All eyes will be on Ronaldo, the two-time Ballon d'Or winner, who has the hopes of a nation weighted down on his broad shoulders. It was the prolific Real Madrid superstar who booked Portugal's place in this summer's showpiece international thanks to a stunning individual performance against Sweden in last November's play-off - but those heroics would pale into insignificance if he manages to produce a series of match-winning performances in Brazil over the forthcoming weeks.
The 29-year-old, though, has his work cut out against a fearsome-looking Germany side in the Group G opener. Joachim Low's team are the third favourites to lift the iconic World Cup trophy at the Maracana on July 13, just behind the South American big two, Brazil and Argentina. But the result of this afternoon's match could boil down on which nation copes best with dealing with the energy-sapping Salvador conditions.
Temperatures could push 30 celsius on the east coast of Brazil - and Germany are without their most lively attack-minded player, Marco Reus, who suffered a cruel ankle injury prior to the start of the tournament. The onus will subsequently fall on the likes of Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller and Mario Gotze to score the goals, while Germany's suspect defence face the unenviable task of keeping Ronaldo and co. quiet at the opposite end of the pitch.
Germany XI: Neuer, Howedes, Hummels, Khedira, Ozil, Muller, Lahm (c), Mertesacker, Kroos, Gotze, Boateng
Portugal XI: Patricio, Alves, Pepe, Veloso, Coentrao, Ronaldo (c), Moutinho, Almeida, Meireles, Nani, Pereira
Despite concerns over Ronaldo's fitness, the Portugal captain is named in the starting line-up to face Germany, who opt against deploying a recognised centre-forward. Miroslav Klose is just one goal away from matching Brazil legend Ronaldo's record of 15 goals at World Cup finals - but has to make do with a place on the substitutes' bench this afternoon.
Philipp Lahm captains the Germany team and looks set to start the match in central midfield - a position the right-back has played for most of the season with club side Bayern Munich thanks to Pep Guardiola.
As well as Ronaldo, Portugal will also be looking to Nani for inspiration. The Manchester United winger has been linked with a move to Arsenal today - but will be fully focussed on the task in hand.
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