When USA meet Germany in the final match of World Cup Group G on Friday, some cynical eyes might well be cast in the direction of Recife.
Both teams are sat on four points, both teams are three points ahead of their nearest rivals Portugal and Ghana, and - most importantly - both teams know a draw will be enough to send them into the last 16 of the tournament.
The 1982 similarities are there to see, when West Germany claimed a 1-0 win over Austria in their final Group 2 game of the first round. The result meant both sides progressed, and the ‘non-aggression pact of Gijon’ has now become famous as one of the darkest days in World Cup history.
Much has changed in the world of football over the past 22-years, but not the desire and will to win. Sometimes, this comes at any cost - including the integrity of the game. Only four years ago, Luis Suarez ‘saved’ a header, got sent-off and watched Uruguay reach the World Cup semi-finals. Fair justice for his deliberate hand ball?
It would undoubtedly be difficult to intentionally pre-arrange a draw in a game of this magnitude, and many of the players involved in the 1982 match insist that there was never an agreement between the two teams.
Perhaps that is where the problem lies. On Thursday afternoon, the players on the pitch must make a conscious decision over what they want to do. Jurgen Klinsmann has no doubt his players will go for the win, with America’s coach - the former Germany striker - insisting his side will be going for the win.
“You’re talking about a game that is decades ago. That is only a part of Germany’s history and not part of the United States’s history. I think if you look at the past of the US team, we always try to make things happen,” he told a press conference, clearly smelling the possibility of a pre-arranged stalemate.
“We have that fighting spirit, and we give everything in every game. We will go to Recife and we will give everything to beat Germany. That is our goal.”
History suggests Klinsmann is right, given that USA recently scored two injury-time goals against Panama to send them out of World Cup qualifying and put Mexico through in their place. They are now in the last 16 of this tournament.
But, on the bigger stage, will it be different? Klinsmann and Germany boss Joachim Low are close friends; could that play a part? What about the players involved? A few of the USA squad play their trade in the Bundesliga.
Given the intense scrutiny now placed on every single match at the World Cup, it would quickly become clear if things were amiss. And, given Germany’s high standing as one of the best team’s in world football, it would be even more incredible if they were to agree to play it unfair. Low must surely fancy his team’s chances of winning anyway, as the second-ranked side in the world.
If both teams are struggling for a breakthrough in the second-half though, then the game could quickly descend into a bore draw. There is nothing wrong with that, as it would be silly for a team to jeopardise their place in Brazil by chasing a win they don’t really need.
Where the public would rightly feel aggrieved is if it had already been decided what was going to happen before the game - in short, match fixing. Given the professional nature of the game, it’s almost inconceivable to think such a thing could take place.
Ghana and Portugal, who meet at the same time in Brasilia, would be up in arms about it. Whilst Portugal need a five-goal swing, Ghana only need to win and USA to lose to make it very interesting. After their dramatic failure in South Africa, this would be another bitter pill to swallow.
They will be relying on the integrity of the modern-day professional - but do fans trust players to do the right thing in this day and age? Only time will tell, but the smart money might well be on a draw, whether intentional or not.
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