The US plays Germany in the World Cup 2014. Might the US survive the group of death? Might Germany dash the hopes of the shocking US squad?
For American fans, this has been a crazy ride of a world cup. Beating rivals Ghana? Victory against Portugal snatched away at the final minute? Global soccer ascendancy?
For German fans, this world cup has been shaping up like a disappointment worthy of the 2002 finals. Tying Ghana? Whomping Portugal wasn't so bad.
Patriotism, loyalty, friendship, sportsmanship and strategy are all hot topics leading up to the much-anticipated U.S.-Germany Group G finale on Thursday in Recife.
Both the U.S. and Germany have four points after two matches, and each have a strong chance to advance to the World Cup 2014 knockout stage. According to fivethirtyeight.com, Germany has a 99.7 percent chance of advancing, while the U.S. has a 75.8 percent chance. Meanwhile, Ghana has just 9.1 percent chance of advancing, while Portugal is at 5.4 percent.
The situation for the U.S. and Germany is particularly interesting because there are questions surrounding how both nations should play the final group match. Should the U.S. win, they will finish on top of the group and face the runner-up of Group H, which would be considerably weaker than the expected Group H winner, Belgium. By going for a win, as opposed to playing cautiously for a draw, the U.S. defense would be exposed to counterattack goals, and therefore put their Round-of-16 hopes in jeopardy. A lopsided loss could mean elimination for either nation.
While the multiple scenarios are intriguing, perhaps the most fascinating storyline entering the U.S. – Germany match is the numerous connections between the two nations.
The most notable revolve around U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who was born near Stuttgart and played for and previously coached the German team. He will face his protégé, Joachim Low, who has coached Germany since replacing Klinsmann in 2006.
It is also common for coaches to cross borders in international competition, in both basketball and soccer. Donnie Nelson, son of famed NBA coach Don Nelson, was born in Iowa, but has coached basketball on the international level for Lithuania, and served as the chief advisor for China’s national team.
Former U.S. soccer coach Bob Bradley, who is the father of current player Michael Bradley, was the national coach for Egypt. In 1994, the U.S. was coached by Bora Milutinovic, who has coached a whopping nine nations.
At times, a head coach facing his former protégé can be a contentious issue. That goes for not only soccer, but all sports.
Klinsmann was quick to dispel such talk.
“There is no time for friendship calls,” Klinsmann said. “This is all about business now. There will be no such call.”
The way the U.S. and Germany prepare for the match will almost certainly have to do with the way Klinsmann and Low know each other. Both coaches are aptly aware of the other’s strengths and weaknesses. They also have strong knowledge of their opponent’s roster.
The Germany-U.S. connection also goes deeper than coaches and current players. Multiple American-born players have played in the Bundesliga over the years. Steve Cherundolo, one of the most accomplished U.S. players ever, spent so much time with one Bundesliga team that he was nicknamed “Mayor of Hannover.” Cherundolo, 35, received some consideration to play in his third World Cup before announcing his retirement in March.
During the years when the U.S. struggled to qualify for the World Cup, there was an emphasis on the U.S. to utilize the style and strategy of Germany, a country with three World Cup titles on their resume. In 2002, the U.S. nearly reached the semifinals in a tight matchup which Germany won, 1-0. The last time the two nations met was in a friendly in Washington, D.C., which ended in a U.S. victory, 4-3. At one point, the Yanks held a 4-1 lead.
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