Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
When the U.S. Men’s National Team take the field on Thursday in Recife, they’ll be 90 minutes away from achieving a remarkable feat.
With four points from their first two games, the USA need just one point to secure a place in the knockout round. However, just like their previous two matches in the “Group of Death,” the upcoming match against Germany (12 p.m. ESPN) will be no easy feat.
Germany are carrying a few knocks but are a team who’s offense is firing on all cylinders, having scored six goals in their first two matches. Ghana found the cracks in Germany’s defense after scoring via a header and a quick counter-attack off a turnover and the USMNT will need to take as much as they can from that game to prepare to take on head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s home country.
Germany, like the USMNT, are on four points and only need a draw to ensure a place in the knockout rounds. Even if either team lose, there’s still the chance that both the USA and Germany go through if Ghana tie Portugal. Don’t tell that to Klinsmann or Germany head coach Joachim Löw though. They’re both going to play for the win, regardless of the outcome of the other Group G match.
With all the German-Americans in the USMNT starting lineup, the players should be fired up to face the country where they were raised or born, and it should make for a terrific 90 minutes of soccer.
Here are some more notes on today’s World Cup slate:
PORTUGAL vs. GHANA
After each securing draws in thrilling fashion in match day two, both Portugal and Ghana head into their final group game (12 p.m. ESPN2) knowing that nothing but a win and a good result from either Germany or the USA can help them progress.
The Ghanian camp is in crisis, especially after head coach Kwesi Appiah dismissed Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sully Muntari on the day of their final match following verbal and physical altercations. Ghana played both the USA and Germany very close and could have won or drawn both games, thanks to the fine counter-attacking play of Asamoah Gyan and Andre Ayew.
Now it will be up to the Black Stars to overcome the dismissals and keep their focus on the game.
Portugal are licking their wounds again after nearly losing to the USMNT, and while Pepe returns to the squad, they’ll likely still be without backup left back Andre Almeida and forward Helder Postiga, in addition to the loss of Fabio Coentrao and Hugo Almeida. Portugal have the toughest road to overcome, needing to beat Ghana and have the USA or Germany lose by a margin enough to erase their negative four goal differential.
SOUTH KOREA vs. BELGIUM
South Korea look to rebound from a poor display in their 4-2 defeat to Algeria when they take on Belgium, who are already through to the knockout round (4 p.m. ESPN).
Although they’ve already qualified thanks to big performances from substitutes, Belgium head coach Marc Wilmots said that his side are going to try and win, something that South Korea will have to overcome. The Taegeuk Warriors need a tie between Algeria and Russia for a chance to advance into the Round of 16.
Belgium might look to give starters such as Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany, and Thibaut Courtois a rest in favor of Adnan Januzaj, Dries Mertens, and Nicolas Lombaerts.
ALGERIA vs. RUSSIA
Coming off their biggest win in World Cup history, Algeria hope to keep their momentum moving forward when they take on Fabio Capello and Russia.
The Fennecs took advantage of poor lapses in concentration by South Korea to steamroll their way to a 4-2 victory but they’ll face a much stronger and stringent defense in Russia, who are coming off a disappointing late defeat to Belgium. The Russians struggles however have come in front of goal, scoring just once off substitute forward Aleksandr Kerzhakov.
Capello and his Russia squad now hope to shake off the disappointment and beat Algeria to advance to the knockout round. If Russia win and South Korea fail to win by a big enough margin, Russia is in the next round. If Algeria win or draw, and South Korea fail to win, Algeria will advance to the Round of 16.
What do you think of today’s World Cup slate? Think the U.S. can pull out at least a draw? Do you see Ghana overcoming the loss of Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng? Do you expect South Korea to defeat Belgium in a meaningless match for the Red Devils?
Share your thoughts below.