Germany-USA: Erase plans for a draw

Posted: June 27, 2014

THERE MAY come a moment in today's final Group G match between the United States and Germany when both teams determine it would be prudent to settle for a draw.

It will not, as some cynics have suggested, be a predetermined conspiracy to ensure that both nations get the valuable point that will push them into the round of 16 of the 2014 World Cup.

Depending on how the game plays out, there could come a point late in the second half when, if the score is even, the USA and Germany reach the same conclusion - that the bird already secured in the basket is too valuable to risk losing it by chasing after another bird.

Under those circumstances, that is called a sound, in-game shift in strategy, not an orchestrated unsportsmanlike conspiracy.

And except for Ghana and Portugal, the teams that need the USA/Germany match to produce a winner to have any chance at advancing, no nation in the World Cup will have a problem with that, because any team in that situation would do the same thing.

I get it. It is understandable that people would ask the question of both the USA and Germany.

Both teams have everything to gain from a draw and potentially everything to lose by chasing after a win.

But that doesn't make the question any less insulting - especially to the Germans, who are being connected to a strategy from a different era of German soccer that existed before most of them were born.

Germany hadn't yet reunited as a single nation when the infamous collusion match between then West Germany and Austria happened at the 1982 World Cup in Spain.

Knowing before the game that a 1-0 win by West Germany would ensure that the bordering nations would both advance, the Austrians basically let West Germany score a goal and then made no attempt to get an equalizer, while the West Germans made no attempt to add to their lead.

It became known as "The Non-Aggression Pact of Gijon," and FIFA changed its rules so that the final group matches were played simultaneously to guard against future collusions.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who in another life as a player helped lead Germany to the 1990 World Cup and 1996 European titles, has said that "is only part of Germany history" and that the USA is "known to give everything it has in every single game."

But Klinsmann's most accurate statement about why the USA would not go down that road came when he said that the U.S. team was not "made for draws."

Klinsmann was referring to the "American spirit of competition," but there is a more tangible reason for why that comment applies.

A suspect defense is the biggest weakness of this USA team.

In the five matches since the 23-man World Cup roster was set, the United States has had one clean sheet - against Azerbaijan in the first game of the sendoff series.

The USA is in this situation because it gave up a tying goal to Portugal's Varela, just seconds from a victory that would have sent it to the round of 16.

The idea that the USA could execute a game plan designed to hold a motivated German team to a scoreless draw is inconceivable.

The United States does not have the defensive fortitude to do that.

"Our players know our opponents," Germany coach Joachim Loew said. "We know exactly which are the weak points and the strong points of the [United States], but what's decisive is for us to take advantage of opportunities and our qualities. If we can do this, we will win."

Winning Group G is important for the Germans, who have aspirations of winning the World Cup.

Finishing second in Group G means a matchup in the round of 16 with the winner of Group H, which will likely be a young and talented squad from Belgium, a legitimate dark-horse contender.

Germany does not want to see that match in the first stage of the knockout competition.

Germany will look to score early and force the United States to chase the game.

"As a player, we don't play for a draw," Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil said yesterday. "Our objective out on the pitch is to do the utmost to win, and that is what we're going to do against the United States. We want to finish first in the group, and that's why we're going to win."

German confidence, however, should not be mistaken for a lack of respect for the USA, which is why they know the danger of trying to sit on a close game.

The Germans will look for two goals and bank that the Americans cannot score three.

The United States must take the same aggressive stance. It needs to go after Germany from the start and show it has no fear and no lack of confidence. Score first and shift the pressure onto the Germans to come up with an answer.

The best way for the USA to lose to Germany would be to try for a tie.


Email: smallwj@phillynews.com

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