Dubbed as an ‘international friendly’, the final match of Group G was to be an indifferent affair. Germany needed only a draw, or even a loss in favourable circumstances, to qualify for the last 16. USA needed a draw to secure their berth; however a loss and a win for Ghana in the other match (v Portugal) would see the Americans crashing down just metres from the finish line.
Fielding his usual starting XI with minor adjustments, Joachim Low brought on Podolski for Gotze and Bastian Schweinsteiger, recovering from injury, made his first start of the World Cup.
Former German international Jurgenn Klinsmann, current coach of USA, fielded a formidable attack with Bradley-David-Jones in the midfield and the veteran Clint Dempsey up front.
The match began on a rather exuberant note; Germany’s quick passing and blindingly fast movement had the Americans flabbergasted and but for the latter’s almost stubborn insistence on walking the ball into the net, a goal would certainly have been scored. However, exaggerations aside, the American centre-backs must be credited on having risen to the occasion with some valiant defending. Omar Gonzales was a standout star, preventing mishaps right from the start to the final whistle.
After the initial period of pressure from the Germans, the game opened up much and the Americans in turn showed a packed Recife stadium their dexterity. The lack of Sami Khedira was somewhat felt as Schwiensteiger and Lahm had their hands full trying to block the rapid advances of the Americans. Here too, despite their impressively ornate play, the Americans had very little to show for it in terms of statistics.
As the rain-drenched players emerged in fresh kits after the half time interval, a note of panache was redolent in the game. Miroslav Klose, on the verge of becoming all time World Cup finals top scorer, was brought on for Podolski to convert Germany’s elaborate attacks into goals. And indeed, twice the talismanic striker nearly converted free headers into goals, yet was tantalisingly denied.
But the pressure did bear fruit as in the 55th minute, Ozil’s incredible header was knocked out by Tim Howard only to see Muller smash it into the net from just outside the box; an incredible goal to cap of an incredible group stage run.
Although the Americans showed industry, it was Die Mannschaft ‘s battle hardened and flawless attacks, which had the former scrambling all over the field. A few attacks did worry the German defence though. The last minutes of the match were played on a nonchalant note from both teams as news of Portugal’s goal against Ghana put at ease the American hearts, qualification was all but assured.
USA now face Belgium in the round of 16. Despite a commendable group stage performance, the Red Devils should not find it to difficult to overcome the turbulence that USA will undoubtedly create. Germany though, have a far easier fixture against Algeria and barring a farce, can rest assured of a spot in the quarter finals.
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