USA-Germany Epic Preview

The group stage is nearing conclusion. We have already learned 6 of the 8 Round of 16 matchups. The others will be learned today.

Before I dig into my preview of the matchup between the two nations with the highest page views on this site, let’s look at the Table of Contents (or, in German, Inhaltsverzeichnis):

Background – what you need to know. It includes Germerican facts.

Scenarios – what needs to happen for each country to go through.

How will Germany play? – Taktik der Deutsch-Nationalmannschaft.

How will the US play? – tactics of the US national team. (Note: I do not talk about the goalkeepers in this. Both Manuel Neuer and Tim Howard are very solid players and guaranteed starters.)

Prediction – my totally un-biased predictions.

Background

-These teams have played each other 9 times. Germany has won 6, the US has won 3, and none have ended in draws.

-The last time they played in the World Cup was in 2002, in the quarterfinals. Germany won 1-0, but they shouldn’t have. THAT WAS A HANDBALL!!!!

-The last time they played was last year, a friendly in Washington, DC. The US won 4-3, but many of Germany’s top players were not there. This was the game where the currently-injured Jozy Altidore broke a very long scoreless streak for the US.

-One of the biggest stories leading into this game is the German influence in the US team. Of the 23 US players, 5 grew up mostly in Germany (they all have a parent who was stationed there in the military). I’ll give a run-down of the Germericans:

Jermaine Jones – the 32-year-old has been the best US player for the World Cup. He’s been doing great. Even not counting the incredible goal (which was the 2300th World Cup goal ever–not sure why Wikipedia tracks that, but it’s interesting) his play has been incredible so far. A big portion of the central midfielders’ success is the insertion of Kyle Beckerman alongside him, which gives Jones, currently a Besiktas player, more freedom to roam. And he’s done a lot of high-quality roaming. If you don’t think that Jones has done good, then you don’t understand this sport.

Fabian Johnson – the 26-year old wide-player can play in midfield or defense; right-back has been his position this World Cup. He and Jones are the only two Germericans who start, and his quality play for club and country combined with the fact that Germany don’t have that many full-backs means that some Germans now think that he’d be good enough for Die Mannschaft. Too bad, he’s cap-tied to the US. The soon-to-be Borussia Monchengladbach man is good in both attack and defense, although he is far from perfect in the latter.

John Brooks – the 21-year-old’s performance so far might be the most memorable; it was his winning goal that sent the US past Ghana. The tall, left-footed centerback has already been getting serious minutes in the Bundesliga for Hertha Berlin, although he isn’t yet a starter for the US. Matt Besler is the favorite at left-center-back.

Timothy Chandler – the full-back has been good in the Bundesliga, yet he hasn’t really impressed in the US national team set-up. In fact, you could say that he’s done the opposite of impressing; commitment issues compounded by injury meant that he was basically exiled from the team for 15-months before Klinsmann called him back in for this World Cup. He hasn’t played yet, but considering that he’s 24 he should still be in the picture for 2018.

Julian Green – he’s 19. As I’ve said, there is no way that he should be in the team ahead of Landon Donovan. But he is. He hasn’t played yet, and he won’t play unless Germany is already up 4-0 and it doesn’t matter. Playing with him is like voluntarily going a man down. You think I’m being harsh? That he’s just a kid? No he isn’t, he’s a World Cup player. He needs to be held to that standard.

Jürgen Klinsmann – the most famous Germerican is the coach. He used to be the Deutsch Nationaltrainer (German national team manager), and after that he had a stint with Bayern Munich. Ever heard of the term “varying success?” That kind of explains Klinsmann’s managerial reign in Germany. He played as well, scoring 47 goals in 108 appearances for West Germany or Germany. He’s lived in California since his retirement.

I’ve been critical of a lot of his decisions, and I remain critical of one of them (Green), but as I’ve said before none of that stuff matters. It’s based on cold, hard results. And so far, the US has beat Ghana and played well enough to beat Portugal. Klinsmann’s team was either a sloppy mistake early on or a late equalizer away from qualifying out of the Group of Certain Death with a game to spare. You can’t argue with how the team has played.

When Klinsmann was the Germany coach, his assistant was Joachim Löw, who currently coaches Die Mannschaft.

For all of you cynics, this is what Klinsmann says about facing Germany: “there is no game I would like to win more.”

Scenarios

This game will happen simultaneously to the Ghana-Portugal game. This is what the table looks like now:

Team…….Points…Goal difference

Germany……4………+4

USA……………4………+1

Ghana……….1………-1

Portugal…….1………-4

The group winner will probably face Algeria or Russia. The second-place team will probably face Belgium, while the third- and fourth-place teams will be eliminated. If you are new to the sport than you need to know that the winner will get 3 points, the loser gets 0, and if it’s a draw both teams will get 1 point.

There are several different things that can happen. Let’s go through them:

Germany-USA Draw

Team…….Points…Goal difference

Germany……5………+4

USA……………5………+1

Ghana……….1……….-1

Portugal…….1………-4

I’m not even going to fill in the results for Ghana or Portugal, because it won’t matter. Neither of them can get to 5 points. In the case of a draw, Germany beats the US on goal difference, which is the first tiebreaker. The US would still join Germany in advancing from the group, which would make it a successful World Cup for Klinsmann’s team.

Ghana-Portugal Draw

Team…….Points…Goal difference

Germany……7………+5

USA……………4……….0

Ghana……….2………-1

Portugal…….2………-4

No matter which team loses the US-Germany game, they will be safe if the Ghana and Portugal can’t find a winner. Considering that those two teams are 3 points behind the top two, they will need a win to get out of the group.

Germany win, Ghana win

Team…….Points…Goal difference

Germany……7………+5

USA……………4……….0

Ghana……….4……….0

Portugal…….1………-5

Best-case scenario for the US if Germany and Ghana both win is to be tied with Ghana on goal difference, and that would happen if both games end in one-goal margins. Goals scored is the next tiebreaker. Currently, the US has scored 4 goals in the tournament, while Ghana has scored 3, so something like a 1-0 or margin in each game, or a 2-1 margin in each game, would see the US advance in the next tiebreaker: head-to-head. The US would win that one. However, the likelihood that it goes to that is slim. If both Germany and Ghana win, they’ll probably be the teams going through.

Germany win, Portugal win

Germany……7………+5

USA……………4……….0

Portugal…….4………-3

Ghana……….0………-2

If the US lose while Ghana do as well, that’s a good thing for the team unless Portugal can overtake the US in goal difference, not something that’s likely thanks to Germany’s 4-0 win over CR7’s team. The sum of the margin of victory would have to be 5 to take it to goals scored.

So, if Portugal wins by 4 and the US loses by 1, or if Portugal wins by 1 and the US loses by 4, or, say, Portugal wins by 3 and the US lose by 2, it goes to goals scored; right now the US leads Portugal in that, 4 to 2.  A big win by Portugal would probably bring it to even.

If Portugal beat Ghana 2-0, and Germany beat the US 3-0, or some other combination where the total margin is 5, the European teams win, and Portugal scores 2 more than the US, then it would go to head-to-head (the two teams drew, so that tiebreaker goes nowhere) and it will then go to a drawing of lots. A drawing of lots!

USA win, Ghana win

USA……………7………+2

Germany……4………+3

Ghana……….4………..0

Portugal…….1………-5

There is a slim chance that Germany will get eliminated. Very, very slim. But still a chance. Germany would need to lose for it to happen, and the winner of the other game would need to overtake them on Tordifferenz (goal difference). That would most likely be Ghana, because Portugal trail Germany in goal difference by 8.

How will Germany play?

Die Mannschaft have lined up the same way in both of their games so far. While I would switch around a few things, I’m obviously not the German coach and Löw probably won’t change it. By the way, wouldn’t it be funny if I was the German coach? A German coaching the US against an American coaching Germany?

This German team is an efficient machine of playing good soccer. I call them the German soccer machine, or, in German, the Deutsch Fußball-Maschine.

Anyway, this is how they’ve played:

Possible Germany vs. US formation

That’s a very good team. Now for the details:

Attackers

They play in a 4-3-3, and unlike other 4-3-3s in which there is a well-defined striker and the wingers drop back to make it a virtual 4-5-1, the German front 3 is interchangeable. Müller is the center-forward if anyone is, but he often changes positions with Götze and Özil.

Only one player is listed as a “forward,” and that’s Miroslav Klose. He hasn’t started yet, although considering that he scored last game, tying the record for most World Cup goals ever, I expect to see him play, and I wouldn’t be too surprised to see him start. I doubt he will, but I wouldn’t be too surprised. Klose is an expert in scoring goals.

Another forward, one who can play more centrally or on the left, is Lukas Podolski. Plus I wouldn’t be surprised to see Andre Schürrle or even the young Julian Draxler come off the bench to play.

Of the three whom I expect to start, Müller, Özil, and Götze, all three of them are talented players who can easily inflict damage on the US. Thomas Müller has played in 8 World Cup games. He has scored 8 World Cup goals, already in the top 30 of all-time. He’s scored as many World Cup goals as Diego Maradona and he’s only 24. Read that sentence again. This guy can score goals.

Mesut Özil is a master of chance creation. In his club season, his first with Arsenal, he was a bit shaky at times, but he still had 2.9 key passes per game. That number is at 2.5 for his World Cup play so far. Mario Götze was one of only 7 Bundesliga players with at least 8 goals and at least 8 assists, and he was also in the top 7 in dribbles per game in the Bundesliga.

These players will shift around and basically do everything humanly possible to score goals for Germany. The US backline should be very afraid.

Midfield

The central three for Germany has been made stronger by Pep Guardiola’s decision to play Philipp Lahm, Germany’s captain and arguably best player, as a defensive midfielder. Yes, I am sure that Löw wouldn’t have played him there if Lahm wouldn’t have just played a full season in the midfield.

Alongside Lahm has been Sami Khedira, who just won the Champions League, and Toni Kroos, another member of Bayern Munich in this German side (the Bundesliga champs have 7 players on the squad: Lahm, Müller, Götze, Kroos, Schweinsteiger, Boateng, and goalkeeper Neuer).

Bastian Schweinsteiger was just recently cleared from injury, and he played 20 minutes against Ghana. While he hasn’t gotten a start yet, I would assume that he would be a sure-fire starter if/when healthy.

Defense

The weakness of the German team is their defense. Yes, most other teams in the world would love to have Germany’s defense, especially if you throw in Philipp Lahm, but compared to their front 6 their back 4 is lacking.

Mats Hummels and Per Mertesacker are the two centerbacks. Jerome Boateng and Benedikt Höwedes are also center-backs, but Löw decides to play them at full-back. Boateng, on the right, is certainly capable of being a right-back. Höwedes, on the left, is good enough to start at left-back for almost every other team, but on this team he’s probably the weakest link.

Why don’t they just move Lahm, arguably the best full-back on planet earth, to left-back, and then have Schweinsteiger, Kroos, and Khedira in midfield? Perhaps Schweinsteiger still has fitness issues, but going forward I think that Lahm should move to left-back.

Other options in defense include Erik Durm, a speedy left-back, Borussia Dortmund right-back Kevin Großkreutz, Matthias Ginter, a young center-back, and Sampdoria center-back/right-back Shkodran Mustafi, who has gotten a substitute appearance in each of Germany’s games.

Isn’t it amazing how many good players Germany have? They’ve used the same 11 starters in each game. This is what their team would look like not counting those 11:

Germany B

This is their B team. How good would this team be if they were in the World Cup separately? They’d make it out of most groups.

How will the US play?

What is Jürgen Klinsmann going to do to get a result against the Deutsch Fußball-Maschine? Well, his formation will be one of these:

Possible US vs. Germany Formations

Most likely he will do the 4-2-3-1 again. Lots of people think that that worked well, and that the US played a much more attacking style against Portugal. This isn’t true. The US scored really early against Ghana, and then they sat back, while Ghana tried to attack the game. Portugal scored really early in match #2, so the US tried to chase the game while Portugal sat back. They had the exact same game plan. I personally thought that a lot of the time the US needed more numbers in the box, and I especially thought that Michael Bradley was pushed too far forward.

Am I just criticizing the 4-2-3-1 because I want to see Wondo?

Never mind that. I made valid points. Look at my valid points instead of speculating on ulterior motives.

Attackers

The US has 3 legitimate forwards. Neither Chris Wondolowski nor Aron Jóhannsson have ever gotten a World Cup start, and one of them could find their first alongside Clint Dempsey. Or we could just see Dempsey alone up top.

Clint Dempsey has played well in this World Cup. Only 7 players have scored a goal in every game they’ve played in: Robin van Persie, Memphis Depay, Tim Cahill, James Rodriguez, Andre Ayew, Lionel Messi, and Clint Dempsey.

Wingers

In the squishy diamond we’ll see one winger, and in the 4-2-3-1 we’ll see two wingers. The possible wingers are Graham Zusi, Alejandro Bedoya, and Brad Davis. I already mentioned multiple times that Julian Green won’t see any playing time, much less starting.

Davis hasn’t played a minute in this tournament, so I doubt that he will start in this. Alejandro Bedoya has started both games, so that means that he’ll either start this one as well, or he’ll be rested.

Central Midfield

As I said before, Jermaine Jones has been the US’s best player. He can certainly prove to be a thorn in the side of the team that rejected him. I expect another man of the match level performance from Jones.

Kyle Beckerman, as I’ve said many times before, stays in the same position, ahead of the center-backs. He allows Jermaine Jones to run around destroying stuff, and he also allows Michael Bradley to theoretically push forward and create.

Michael Bradley is normally the US’s best player. I have no idea what’s gotten into him. Is he hurt? Is he over-confident (either because Klinsmann has been pumping him up, or because everyone’s been saying that he’s the best, or because he’s the star in Toronto)? Is he under-confident, for whatever reason?

Something is wrong with Michael Bradley. He’s not playing as terrible as some think, but he is playing poorly for his standards. What is normally the team’s biggest strength has somehow become almost a weakness. Yeah, part of it is because opposing teams target him, and part of it is because he’s playing out of position (he’s playing as an attacking midfielder, he’s normally a box-to-box midfielder) but not all of it can be explained by that. Something is wrong with Michael Bradley, and Jürgen Klinsmann needs to find out what it is and fix it now!

Oh, and Bradley cannot be benched. Neither Zusi or Bedoya or Davis would work centrally for this team, and Diskerud isn’t nearly as good as Bradley is defensively.

Defense

If all of these players remain healthy, I can’t see any other starting combination instead of Beasley-Besler-Cameron-Johnson.

Yeah, Beasley hasn’t been perfect. But he’s been a bit overwhelmed because Jermaine Jones, who plays on the left side of the squishy diamond, while he does everything else, he doesn’t have time to support Beasley as much as a true left-midfielder. Also, does anyone think that Chandler would do better? And no, DeAndre Yedlin isn’t a left-sided player, so don’t give me that.

Last game, Besler was solid. He normally is, and he’s a must-start. Geoff Cameron has been a little shaky, but do you really want to see Omar Gonzalez in the form that he’s been in? I didn’t think so. Also, we probably won’t see Besler-Brooks. Both of them are left-footed, and Klinsmann hasn’t played anything other than a lefty-righty center-back combination since this roster was announced. He has, however, surprised me in the past.

Fabian Johnson is a must-start as well because of what he gives the team going forward. Sure, he makes some mistakes defensively, but the other players you could start there (Chandler and Yedlin) are not perfect going back either. Plus, I’m sure that Johnson would have a chip on his shoulder against Germany, he wants to make them regret not selecting him.

Prediction

Ignoring the fact that I was way off on the goal-scorers, I didn’t do that poorly in my US-Portugal prediction. I said 3-2 for the US, and I was thus a Ricardo Costa block/Michael Bradley miss away from getting it exactly.

USA 1-1 Germany

Both teams will be cautious. The US can’t seem to keep a clean sheet, which is why it won’t be 0-0.

The Deutsch Fußball-Maschine will score first, fairly early, and then considering that there is no difference between a win and a draw, they will sit back a bit, the US will thus attack a lot (Klinsmann will be heavily praised for his “attacking style”) and Clint Dempsey will score a goal in the 76th minute. Both teams will be tired, and they will both cautiously sit back.

14’ Müller (Özil)

76’ Deuce (Diskerud)

 

Any thoughts? Questions? Requests? Threats? I’ll make some nice posts for the knockout stage. Stay tuned to Daniel’s Soccer Emporium, your home for adults kicking stuff.

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