Expect the unexpected when U.S. meets Germany
06/23/2014 11:58 AM
06/23/2014 12:06 PM
(SportsNetwork.com) - If the 2014 World Cup has taught us anything, it's that we should expect the unexpected.
After only a fortnight, the tournament has been phenomenally enthralling with no shortage of shocking results and performances.
There was the quick dismissal of Spain, which suffered consecutive defeats to leave the reigning champions staring down a last-place finish in Group B.
Costa Rica, which was given the slimmest of chances to emerge from a group stacked with Uruguay, England and Italy, also comes to mind, taking six points from its first two games to enter its finale against the Three Lions at the Group D summit.
Along the way, Iran pushed Argentina to the brink and nearly nicked a point, Switzerland claimed a last-gasp win over Ecuador and France steamrolled through its first two opponents with little regard for the adage "defense wins championships."
But perhaps the tournament's most unpredictable episodes have come in Group G.
It began with Germany's resounding victory over Portugal by an unexpected 4-0 score.
The United States followed suit later in the day by getting a 2-1 defeat of Ghana, though the real shock came by the manner in which John Anthony Brooks, widely regarded as an unforeseen inclusion in Jurgen Klinsmann's roster to begin with, nodded home the winner with just four minutes left to play.
The string of startling results continued on Saturday when Ghana clipped a point off Germany with the two nations playing to a 2-2 draw. The Ghanaians even looked the better side at times, applying pressure to the lead-footed German defense and providing the nation's future opposition with a blueprint of how to approach the three-time champions.
The United States would have been through to the next round with a victory over Portugal on Sunday, but the Americans fell behind in the early going when Geoff Cameron, who was the model of stability against Ghana, made a hash of an attempted clearance to allow Nani to roof a shot past a scrambling Tim Howard.
Jermaine Jones brought the Yanks level with a stunning strike in the 64th minute while Clint Dempsey, battered and bruised from a broken nose suffered against Ghana, put them in front nine minutes before stoppage time with an awkward pelvic thrust that could become the latest American dance craze.
And just when it looked as if Klinsmann's men had done enough to shock the world by going atop the "Group of Death" after two matches, Cristiano Ronaldo, who had been largely impotent for the opening 94 minutes, popped up in the final 30 seconds of stoppage time to deliver a marvelous cross that was headed home by Silvestre Varela.
The result keeps all four teams in contention to advance to the knockout round, but good luck predicting what will unfold when they wrap up group play on Thursday.
Of course, Germany and the U.S. need just a draw from their meeting at the Arena Pernambuco to be assured spots in the round of 16, and there is plenty of value in playing for such a result.
Neither side would need to expend a great deal of energy, aiding their respective pushes in the knockout round. Key players for both sides could even be rested to get extra recovery time following taxing matches in the first two fixtures.
Speculation of such collusion has been heightened given Klinsmann's close relationship with Germany head coach Joachim Low, who was Klinsmann's No. 2 during his stint in charge of the German national team.
But prematurely resigning to a single point does not seem to be in Klinsmann's DNA, something he confirmed immediately following Sunday's draw with Portugal.
"We want to recover fast and go at Germany and get three points and have seven points and be in the driving seat for the round of 16," Klinsmann said. "Obviously it's a little more difficult after conceding that second goal and I'm sure that in four days we're going to see a very exciting match in Recife."
It's a dangerous approach given that even a 1-0 defeat to Germany could send the Americans packing, depending on what transpires in Ghana's meeting with Portugal. But Klinsmann seems to be living and dying by the proactive approach that he promised to deliver upon his appointment in 2011.
It will be interesting to see what happens if the United States and Germany are tied in the final stages of Thursday's meeting, say, after 70 or 75 minutes. Does the approach change? Do both teams ease off the pedal? If so, then it certainly contradicts Klinsmann's indicated plan.
Predictions can be made as to what will unfold on Thursday, but this World Cup has shown that we should expect the unexpected.