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In Bayern Munich Home Fans Ditch Club Zeal for Country

Germany's Thomas Mueller Scores Against The U.S. On June 26
Thomas Mueller of Germany, left, shoots to score during his team's 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil group G match against the U.S. at Arena Pernambuco on June 26, 2014 in Recife, Brazil. Photographer: Martin Rose/Getty Images

Bayern Munich fan Robert Mueller says he’s forgotten the club he cheered to the fastest title victory in the history of Germany’s Bundesliga in March.

For the 45-year-old Munich resident, all that matters is the German national soccer team, which is fielding seven Bayern players in a bid to win the World Cup for a fourth time.

“You tend to forget club loyalties at the World Cup,” he said, while sipping Hofbraeu Original beer at the Bachmaier Hofbraeu tavern that is a haunt of Bayern supporters on Leopoldstrasse, the avenue that runs between the club’s stadium and the city center. “Here in Munich, there are naturally loads of Bayern fans, who are of course Germany fans, so maybe they have a stronger connection to some of the players.”

The 24-times Bundesliga winner is tied with Manchester United in supplying the most World Cup players, with 14 of its athletes turning out for teams from Germany to the U.S., the Netherlands and Switzerland, according to FIFA, soccer’s governing body. Bayern players have scored more goals at the championship in Brazil than any other soccer club, according to sports data supplier Opta.

Hat-Trick Double

The only two hat-tricks at the tournament have come from Bayern players. Striker Thomas Mueller scored three of four goals he has netted in this year’s event in Germany’s opening game against Portugal, topping the ranks with Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Brazil’s Neymar, who have also scored four times. Bayern midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri put three past Honduras to seal Switzerland’s place in the last 16 on June 25.

Bayern coach Pep Guardiola, who joined the club in July, has championed the short-passing, patient style of football dubbed “tiki-taka” that took the club to its 24th Bundesliga title this year.

The tactic, which he fostered in a generation of Spanish players at former club FC Barcelona, helped Spain to two World Cups and a European Championship in the past six years, and Barcelona to a bevy of domestic and continental trophies over the past decade.

This year, the approach has been overshadowed in continental and international competitions. Bayern and Barcelona succumbed to the counter-attacking football of Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid respectively in the Champions League, Europe’s premier club competition, while Spain fell at the group stage of the World Cup.

Golden Boot

Mueller, winner of the World Cup Golden Boot award in the 2010 finals with a five-goal tally, scored again last night to put Germany on top of Group G with a 1-0 win against the U.S. as both teams qualified for the next round.

“Mueller’s definitely going to get the Golden Boot,” said Markus Schlueter, a Bayern fan who works in advertising in Munich. “Who else if not him? I think the passion for the tournament is the same everywhere in Germany.”

Germany will play Algeria on June 30 for a place in the quarterfinals, while the U.S. will take on Belgium the following day.

The victory was all the sweeter as Germany beat a U.S. squad coached by Juergen Klinsmann, a former Bayern coach who led Germany to third place in the 2006 World Cup. Current coach Joachim Loew was Klinsmann’s assistant at that tournament in Germany.

“Klinsmann’s still got work to do,” said Mueller, the Munich resident. “If they’d learn how to score, they’d be great.”

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