Germany and the United States meet in Recife’s Arena Pernambuco Thursday at 12pm ET in the World Cup—aiming for life in the Group of Death. In a rare turn of events, both nations face the same possibilities: win Group G, runner-up in Group G, or certain elimination.
Americans are optimistic, curious, and reveling in the moment—the bandwagon is never large enough for the world’s third-most populous nation. The fits of patriotism, coupled with a charismatic roster of new talent, have fans strutting with house money. We believe… and, if we lose, we still gave ‘em hell. #Merica and such.
Germany enters the game with more talent but the burden of expectations. When it united West and East Germany for the 1990 World Cup, it crushed all takers—a new mutant superpower would terrorize the international game forever. It hasn’t won a World Cup since, despite making at least the quarterfinals in all of the subsequent World Cups.
This social media-ish fan photo site is a great temperature reading of Germany’s fans and contains ample German selfies. They seem like friendly, NCAA tailgate-level enthusiast noobs–think progressive Pac-12 fans. That’s not even one of the good conferences.
Competitively, though, the USA faces a team of household names. Despite harboring one lone striker on its roster, this German pedigree would be the tournament frontrunner if the World Cup were held in any other country. But like England, Italy, and Spain, its hopes could be dashed in the group stage. The German press must be nervously filing copy like it’s an election night ripe with too close to call races.
The national team reminds us that a draw, however mutually beneficial, is not historically likely.
— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) June 25, 2014
It is also thrilled by celebratory produce.
— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) June 25, 2014
German’s Lebanese delegates are organized with impressive but boilerplate language about being ready and doing your best. There’s good-natured cheese about football and football.
— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) June 23, 2014
On the German Bundesliga’s American language website, there’s a piece titled Klinsmann’s soccer revolution paying dividends that itemizes the German influence of Jurgen Klinsmann’s team. It presents that influence as a familiar, serious “red alert.”
Aside from Klinsmann and his trusted advisor Berti Vogts, who coached Germany for eight years during the 90s, a number of players are set to renew old acquaintances on Thursday. Munich-born Fabian Johnson (1899 Hoffenheim), Frankfurt-born Timothy Chandler (1. FC Nürnberg), Berlin-born John Anthony Brooks (Hertha Berlin) and 18-year-old Bayern youngster Julian Green all ply their trade in the Bundesliga, while former Borussia Mönchengladbach midfielder Michael Bradley and ex-Hannover 96 star DaMarcus Beasley both have experience of playing in Germany’s top flight.
Former FC Schalke 04 man Jermaine Jones, who now plays in Turkey for Besiktas JK, was not only born in Frankfurt, but also made three appearances for Germany under Löw in 2008. Johnson, Brooks and Green, meanwhile, have all featured for Germany’s youth sides – Johnson was even part of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship-winning team that featured the likes of Mesut Özil, Manuel Neuer and Sami Khedira.
However, Green, the 19-year-old phenom who recently chose to play for the United States over Germany, may have been a bigger deal to us than Germans. On a recent Men In Blazers podcast, co-host Roger Bennett recounted asking his German colleagues about Green’s decision to don the Stars and Stripes. They were dismissive, “”We are living in a trout farm. You’ve taken one of our little trout.”
The Bundesliga also put together an encouraging tribute of Klinsmann’s professional tenure in the world-beating German domestic league.
English-language magazine Bundesliga Fanatic was critical of this year’s German team’s lack of focus and tendency to play, well, brave and American-style soccer. From a piece this week titled Germany’s performance against Ghana leaves Jogi Löw with plenty of work to do:
Germany got caught up in the emotional climax of the game and lost their concentration and organization as a result. For all of Germany’s attacking potential, it is fair to say that consistent, focused performances over 90 minutes have been a rarity more often than not under Löw. Furthermore, Germany’s ability to keep their composure when dealing with unexpected blows has come under scrutiny yet again.
Deutsche Well Media is weary of Germany not going for the win, recounting an infamous final group stage game in the 1982 World Cup when then-West Germany and Austria seemed to play cozy, colluding soccer that saw both nations through and eliminated Algeria with a 1-0 West German win. The overriding sentiment being that playing for a draw in 2014—one that eliminates Ghana and Portugal—is an aggressively dishonorable path.
. . . even the West German and Austrian commentators doing the game live on TV, cried foul, and the game went down in history in the German-speaking world as the “Nichtangriffspakt von Gijon” (non-aggression pact of Gijon).
That game hangs extra pressure on the Germans to go for the throat Thursday.
Assistant coach Hansi Flick has dismissed any chance of Germany crafting another Nichtangriffspakt, or “non-aggression pact,” with Klinsmann. Instead, both teams want to take advantage of their opportunity to top the group. “We will play to win, we want to win the group,” said Flick in a press conference on Monday.
In a Deutsche Well interview, German defender Jerome Boateng sizes up the U.S.
Your next opponent is the USA. What impressions do you have of coach Jürgen Klinsmann’s players?
I’ve known [defender] Fabian Johnson for years. From him I’ve heard that they’ve improved enormously. They beat Ghana and nearly beat Portugual and are really tight-knit as a team. Everyone helps each other out. They’re a difficult opponent. We have to create chances and exploit them against the US.
German magazine Bild is optimistic and bold about the game, “Klinsi und seine US-Boys heute Sterne sehen!” which translates to, “Klinsmann and his U.S. team today see stars!” It makes its point with this photo. The stars angle doubles because there’s an expectation that Germany’s veteran globetrotters—Miroslav Klose, Lucas Podolski, Bastian Schweinsteiger—are poised to see more action against the U.S. From Google translate:
In the training sessions in Brazil Lukas Podolski (29) has been running hot. But Poldi remains as Ghana Saver Miroslav Klose (36) on the bench. Loew yesterday before the final training session in Recife: “For me personally, I have already decided how we begin. It’s not about the lineup, but about the attitude.”
The collective hope is a knockout punch and the full three points, and the Germans don’t seem merciful in philosophy.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons