World Cup Group G | Recife | Thu 26 Jun | 5pm
A game both would like to win but dare not lose.
How costly might Silvestre Varela's 95th-minute equaliser for Portugal against the USA prove to be come the end of this top-of-the-table decider? Germany and USA will both progress to the last 16 if neither team wins this game –Germany top and facing the runner-up in Group H, USA second and facing Belgium.
But had the Americans not sat back and invited Ronaldo to send a cross direct onto Varela's head, which he redirected past Tim Howard, then the Americans would be already through and needing just a single point to top the group – and from this group, that would have been on a par with The Costa Rica Story.
Now they face Germany in a game that reminds the world of 1982's 'Nichtangriffspakt von Gijon' – or the 'non-aggression pact of Gijon', when Germany and Austria manufactured a 1-0 result to go through at Algeria's expense; a performance so crooked that FIFA was forced to change its policy of having staggered kick-off times.
America's willingness to allow its opponents onto the front foot hasn't yet come to bite them too hard – a win and a draw is a decent return. Against the Germans, however, a team who may want to win simply to erase the memory of Gijon, the US will almost certainly be punished. Defeat may still be enough to see them staggering through, but if the other game ends with a very handsome winner, then USA may find out the true cost of Varela's header.
What the local media say
Despite Germany dropping points and looking fallible, Bild remained upbeat but offered coach Jogi Low a few pointers. "Jogi have to rebuild so we do not cut off prematurely, as was the Spain and England," it said via a very crude language translation. The main change? Moving Philip Lahm back from midfield to right-back. "After two games is certain: this does not work! There is no better rights defenders in the world than Lahm - so it must be as well to go back."
USA Today took the positives from USA's 2-2 draw with Portugal. "This was simply a team still maturing and developing. A team that has to learn how to finish out big games," it wrote. "Tackle that first. Then we can we start talking seriously about winning the World Cup." Seriously.
Key battle: Michael Bradley vs Kroos/Schweinsteiger/Lahm
Having replaced Clint Dempsey as the USA's MVP, the non-stop 'son of Bob' Bradley was the key man against Portugal, dominating the passing stats and ball recoveries stat and regulating the Americans' tempo. If the USA are to remain composed enough to take the point they need, Bradley will have to be at his best – a tough assignment against Toni Kroos, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm (if Bild allows), or whoever Germany choose to play in the more defensive midfield role.
Facts and figures
- In the 9 previous encounters between Germany and the USA, there has never been a draw. Germany have won 6, USA 3.
- 7 of USA’s last 8 World Cup goals have come after half-time.
- USA have conceded in each of their last 15 World Cup games against European opposition.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
The Germans to cement their place at the top of Group G, and possibly send USA home in the process. 2-0.