All Germany and the USA need is a draw to advance to the round of 16 when they meet during Thursday's final round of 2014 World Cup group action, but fans shouldn't expect to see a replay of the controversial 1982 group stages.
Germany and Austria knew they would qualify if Die Mannschaft recorded a victory by small margin, and that's exactly what the fans got—an early goal and 80 minutes of kick-around. Jurgen Klinsmann and Joachim Low may be compatriots, but don't think for a second these teams have already struck a deal.
Via the Associated Press' Nesha Starcevic (for Yahoo! Sports), Klinsmann made it very clear his team has no intention of playing for a draw following their match against Portugal:
I don't think that we are made for draws, really, except if it happens like tonight - two late goals, last seconds. I think both teams go into this game and they want to win the group.
You're talking about a game (in Gijon) that is decades away that is only part of the Germany history and not the United States. The United States is known to give everything they have in every single game. ... We have that fighting spirit. We have that energy and that determination to do well in every single game.
|Germany v USA Game Lines|
Goal Difference Will Be USA's Biggest Weapon, Biggest Threat
As of right now, the USA lead Ghana and Portugal by three points in the standing, with the Black Stars chasing a two-goal differential and Portugal all the way back on minus-four.
The Yanks beat Ghana 2-1 in their opener, so even if they lose 1-0 and the Ghanaians win by the same score, the USA would advance. It's a good situation to be in, providing the team doesn't think about it too much.
Playing to defend a lead is a dangerous position to be in. Every possible scenario starts playing out in your heads, when you should just be focused on winning a football match.
The USA know the situation all too well—now it's time to see things for what they really are. Don't lose the match, and you'll advance—lose, and your great efforts in the past two matches could still see you through.
If the team can play with that mentality, they should be fine. But if they let that superior goal difference sneak into their minds in any way, it will be their undoing.
The First 20 Minutes Will Be Crucial
Fans and reporters don't have to mention "Gijon" or "1982" to the German team anymore—they know. It's been in every paper they've read for the past few days, and there's every chance Die Mannschaft are sick and tired of it by now.
The 2014 and 1982 teams have nothing in common, and the Germans will want nothing more than to prove that to the world. As always, they'll start the match at a very high pace, hoping they can lock up an easy win by scoring one or two early goals.
Avoiding an early deficit is vital for the USA. Germany are most dangerous when they can play with space, and trailing by a goal, the Yanks will have no choice but to open up their tactics and move their players forward.
If the USA can survive the frantic pace of the first 20 minutes or so, things will settle down. Some of the more inexperienced players will overcome the nerves we saw during the fixture against Portugal and the Germans will take their foot off the gas somewhat.
The longer these teams remain scoreless, the more it helps the USA. The Germans want to win, but they aren't stupid. If Ghana take an early lead against Portugal and this match is still tied at 0-0 after an hour of play, Die Mannschaft will not take any unnecessary risks.
Portugal Will Be Both Teams' Biggest Friends
In all likelihood, the Portuguese will have to beat Ghana by at least four goals to even have a chance at progressing to the next round. As reported by Sky Sports (via FoxSports.com), not even Cristiano Ronaldo himself thinks his team is strong enough to do that:
Maybe we're an average team.
It would be a lie to say that we are a top team. We have a very limited team and we are not at the best level. This does not enable you to beat top teams. There are no miracles. We knew we would have a tough group, with perhaps teams better than us. I never thought we could be world champions, we have to be humble and know our level. I'm not a hypocrite, I never thought we could win the tournament.
Portugal are a talented group of players who never quite gelled as a team. Preparations for the tournament were rocky, and with Ronaldo not fully recovered from an injury he suffered late during the club season, Portugal understandably struggled in their first two matches.
But this is still a talented, proud group of players, and they won't be planning on going home with just one out of a possible nine points. Both Germany and the USA have their fate in their own hands, but Portugal could end up doing their dirty work for them.
Portugal are hurting, but they're still a very dangerous team on the counter. Ronaldo is yet to make his mark on this tournament, and Ghana will most likely be his final chance to do so.
The Black Stars will have no choice—they need to press for a win. Portugal will have space to run in, and expect them to take advantage of that. Ultimately, it is very likely the final result of the match between Germany and the USA won't even matter, with Portugal doing just enough to see both teams through.