Juergen Klinsmann said he is forgetting about all ties when the U.S. faces Germany in the World Cup today, both as an outcome and with friends on his former team.
For U.S. coach Klinsmann, who won the World Cup with Germany as a player in 1990, the game in Recife means matching wits with Joachim Loew, who was his assistant when he guided Germany to the semifinals of the 2006 World Cup.
“We think alike, come from the same region and have always stayed in contact,” Klinsmann, 49, said about Loew, who took over the German team when Klinsmann left.
A U.S. win and victory for Ghana in its Group G match with Portugal could eliminate Germany, a three-time champion and one of the favorites to win the competition. If the Americans lose, Ghana or Portugal could move into second place with a victory when those teams meet in Brasilia.
A draw in either game would send both the U.S. and Germany to the knockout stages, with Germany in first and the U.S. going through as runner-up in the so-called Group of Death. Playing for a tie is not an option, the coach said.
“We will approach it with focus, determination, aggression, we want to give them a real battle,” Klinsmann said. “I have nothing to prove.”
Klinsmann is married to an American. Since taking over, he’s called up five German citizens with connections to the U.S., including Jermaine Jones, who scored the U.S.’s first goal in its 2-2 draw with Portugal in Manaus on June 22. John Brooks Jr., a 21-year-old Berliner who plays for his hometown club, came off the substitute’s bench to get the 86th-minute winner in the 2-1 victory over Ghana in the U.S.’s tournament opener.
Speaking at a press conference on the eve of the game, Fabian Johnson, a 26-year-old defender who represented the German national team at all five youth levels before switching to the American squad, facing former teammates isn’t a big deal. He said he’ll approach it in the same way he does games against friends in the Bundesliga.
“None of the German-U.S. players think about their roots,” Klinsmann said. “They are half and half in a family. It is part of globalization: we grow up all over the world, have the chance to represent two countries because of our parents. They did it against Ghana and Portugal, I want them to do the same against Germany, go the extra mile, extra energy to get a result, we are capable of beating Germany.”
The World Cup draw has meant the U.S. has faced the longest travel schedule, and played in the hottest weather conditions, including the matchup with Portugal in the heat and humidity of the Amazon jungle city of Manaus. Germany has also endured games in Brazil’s hot northern cities, though its players will have had seven hours more rest than the U.S. because of the timing of its 2-2 draw with Ghana in Fortaleza.
Defender Kyle Beckerman said the team’s preparations and the importance of the World Cup game against a three-time champion means exhaustion can’t be used as an excuse.
“This is the biggest game of our lives,” he said. “Any fatigue will be erased. We do not see the short rest as being a harm to us at all.”
It might even be a topic of conversation in a few weeks when Klinsmann and Loew renew their friendship.
“In this World Cup, everyone is doing the best they can,” Klinsmann said. “We leave phones and texts out of the way and get the job done. In three weeks, we will be back on the phone and talk about it and visit each other’s families.”
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