United States vs. Germany: 50-50 Challenge
Our expert bloggers will give their thoughts ahead of each game, so as United States take on Germany in Group G, Jason Davis (USA) and Stephan Uersfeld (Germany) are your guides.
What's at stake?
Jason Davis: For the Americans, a berth in the knockout rounds of the World Cup is on the line, and nothing could possibly be bigger. A draw puts both Germany and the USA through. Jurgen Klinsmann remained adamant in the aftermath of the Americans' disappointing 2-2 draw with Portugal on Sunday there will be no collusion; that he and his former assistant with the German national team Joachim Low won't agree to take it easy in Recife. There may not be an agreement in place, but if the game is tied with a half-hour to go, it's hard to imagine either will push forward and risk being caught out.
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Stephan Uersfeld: There are so many storylines for this match it's hard to keep track of them all. Germany against the USA. Joachim Low against his former boss, Jurgen Klinsmann. Jermaine Jones against the land of his birth, for which he won three caps before accepting that he will never become a mainstay on the Low team. Not to forget Julian Green, Anthony Brooks, Fabian Johnson and Berti Vogts.
Both teams have four points and need just one more each to qualify for the round of 16, but the respective camps have reiterated they will not play for a draw. Why not trust them? Germany want to beat the USA just like they did in their previous two encounters at the World Cup in 1998 -- with Klinsmann scoring the second goal -- and 2002.
JD: Provided Klinsmann does play this one straight up, the X factor could very well be Seattle Sounders fullback DeAndre Yedlin, a young player with blazing speed and a penchant for creating chances in the attacking end. Against Portugal, it was Yedlin who started the sequence that ultimately led to Clint Dempsey's goal that let the Americans believe they might secure their place in the round of 16. Yedlin's inclusion was surprising, but in one substitute appearance against Portugal he showed he can create the same sort of problems Fabian Johnson does from the left flank.
SU: Miroslav Klose. Against Ghana, he needed only two minutes to etch his name into the World Cup history books. The veteran attacker has scored 15 goals at four World Cups and already has his eye on his 16th, a goal that would -- at least by the stats -- make him the most dangerous player to ever compete on the biggest stage. He might not be the guy who scores from outside the box, but why play down his merits?
He is the last of his kind -- a real number nine who knows where to be and when. His new position as a super-sub also plays into his hands. He can take on exhausted center-backs and will remain a threat for every defense until the end of his final World Cup.
JD: It's nearly impossible to pick just one, but if we must, it might as well be Mesut Ozil. The Arsenal midfielder is not only a supreme passer -- American defenders will need to have their heads on a swivel to prevent runners from slipping in to get on the end of Ozil's through balls -- but he is a strong scorer as well. With all the defensive headaches the Germans present, Kyle Beckerman's role in protecting the U.S. back line will never be more important in this tournament. Ozil will float behind the striker, so tracking his movements is of paramount importance.
SU: Clint Dempsey. The 31-year-old has looked sharp in the first couple of matches and he has character, as evidenced when he played with a broken nose against Portugal. He keeps the defenders busy and will test a German back four that has looked vulnerable.
If the USMNT are to record a result, Dempsey has to be deadly in front of Manuel Neuer and make use of any chance that comes his way.
JD: Clint Dempsey versus Germany's center-backs. We're cheating just a bit here, because Dempsey won't be limited to pressuring just one of the pair. It's not yet clear who Low will start in the middle either; Mats Hummels is an injury doubt while Jerome Boateng and Benedikt Howedes did not impress against Ghana on Saturday. Through two games in this World Cup, Dempsey has found his moments to impact the game in two very different roles. On Thursday he'll have to do it again, likely as a lone striker.
SU: The midfield battle will be between Toni Kroos and Jermaine Jones, whose performances at the World Cup have come as a surprise to many Bundesliga followers. Such a clash could prove crucial in deciding the match, and if Kroos is allowed to play his normal game, Germany will take control.
JD: USA 1, Germany 1. Whatever winking does or does not happen between the two German head coaches, it just makes too much sense for this game to end in a draw and for both sides to conserve as much energy as possible ahead of the start of the knockout rounds. Whether it will look good is another question.
SU: Germany 4, USA 1. Once the Low XI starts rolling, they are unstoppable. And that will be the case in Recife -- there will be no Ghana-style mixup for Germany, who will push for the win from the first minute.