The United States squandered a 2-1 lead over Portugal with 30 seconds left and now need to get a result in their final group match against Germany. A tie would send the Americans into the next round, while a win would see them win the group.
Easy enough, right?
Germany looked like the top team in the tournament with a 4-0 win over Portugal to start group play, but leveled off considerably with a 2-2 draw against Ghana. They need a result as well to ensure advancing, making this a fascinating scenario for the United States.
Three reasons the U.S. will succeed …
1. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge
United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann was a legend of the German national team, as a striker who scored goals and played with flair. He parlayed that into a remarkable run in 2006 as head coach of their national team, when they shocked the world with a third-place finish as the host nation. He remains tight with his replacement, Joachim Low, and it would surprise no one if both teams eschew aggressive play just to get a result. If Germany loses, it’d be a disgrace and they might be out of the tournament. They might just pack it in, which could benefit the Yanks.
2. German-American factor
Up and down the American roster, there are players who not only play in the German Bundesliga (one of the top leagues in the world) but who claim German roots. Often, they have an American father who was a serviceman and a German mother. Right back Fabian Johnson and midfielder Jermaine Jones, both starters, chose to represent the United States. On the bench, the opening-game hero John Anthony Brooks, Timothy Chandler and Julian Green were also possibilities to play for Germany. These players will be motivated to go up against the nation where they’ve spent most of their lives. There is an intriguing dynamic here.
3. Lots of familiarity
With a German head coach and five players on the roster with German roots, the Americans understand their opponent, their mindset and style of play. The Germans won’t be bigger or stronger than the Americans and the style of play will be roughly similar. While they have higher-quality players, the Americans do match-up well here.
Three reasons the U.S. will struggle …
1. Rested Germans
While the United States played in the late match Sunday in the Amazonian city of Manaus, the Germans’ last fixture was mid-afternoon on Saturday. They will have more time to rest and less travel than the United States. For a veteran team, this is a big advantage for the Europeans, especially in the heat and humidity of Brazil.
2. The Low down
While Klinsmann was hailed for his work with the Germans in 2006, it was his assistant Low who is quietly credited as the brains of the set-up. Low understands Klinsmann, his tactics and is a true master of the game. The pupil might have the advantage over the mentor here.
3. Deflated Americans
Just 30 seconds from three points and a guaranteed booking to the next round, the Americans fell apart after a superb game. They will have to regroup against a much better team than Portugal. The backline fell apart early in the game and in the last gasps of stoppage time and Michael Bradley hasn’t looked his usual self in the midfield. It was his turnover late that was most costly in the game-tying goal. The collapse of Sunday might still hang over this team.
Follow Metro soccer writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.