Having been brought back down to earth by Ghana in their second match, Joachim Löw’s side would knuckle down and turn out a highly professional performance in their final group game against the United States in Recife. With the Americans being coached by former Nationaltrainer Jürgen Klinsmann there had been plenty of talk in the media about some possible collusion between the two teams, but this would prove not be the case as the Nationalmannschaft worked their way to a deserved 1-0 win.
The city of Recife would be on the end of a torrential downpour that would leave many parts of the city under more than a metre of water, but in spite of the weather problems the game would get under way on schedule. There would be little scope for high-speed football on the slick pitch and in the pouring rain, and while the game was never going to be a spectacle it would be settled by a goal worthy of any World Cup.
Having been caught short five days earlier the German defence would tighten up considerably, with their dangerous opponents reduced to just one shot at goal. There would be no real threat on Manuel Neuer’s goal until deep in to injury time, and confidence would have surely been boosted ahead of the knockout stages of the tournament.
Facts and Stats
Coming into the game the two countries had met on nine occasions, with the Germans winning six and their opponents coming out on top on three occasions. This would be their third meeting in the World Cup: the first meeting in France in 1998 would see the Mannschaft emerge with a 2-0 group stage win – with the opening goal from Andreas Möller and the second scored by none other than current US coach Klinsmann. The second meeting would come just four years later in the quarter final in South Korea, and in a far tighter affair the issue would be settled by a Michael Ballack header six minutes before half-time.
There would be no major landmark milestones, but among the German centurions in the squad two would overhaul other legendary names in the all-time appearances list. With his 104th international cap Bastian Schweinsteiger – back in the starting eleven for the rested Sami Khedira – would edge ahead of the great Franz Beckenbauer, while the Mannschaft’s most recent centurion Per Mertesacker would draw level on 101 caps with 1990 World Cup winner and 1996 European champion Thomas Häßler.
In his sixty-third competitive international as Nationaltrainer, Jogi Löw would be seeking his fiftieth victory.
Löw’s decision to start with Schweinsteiger would be one of two changes to the starting lineup, with Mario Götze being benched in place of Lukas Podolski. Having scored against Ghana the FC Bayern youngster would fade somewhat in the latter part of the second half, and against the stronger American wingers the energetic and more physical Podolski would be a logical choice.
Germany would be quick off the mark in making a strong start to the match, with Jérôme Boateng looking particularly dangerous as he looked to use has power and pace down the right flank. The FC Bayern man would manage to present a cross three times in the opening ten minutes as the Germans looked to get in the scoresheet early, but some stout defending by the Americans would see things through to half-time as the tempo slowed down dramatically in the twenty or some minutes before the break.
Having started brightly Podolski would become less of a threat, and would be replaced by Miroslav Klose at the start of the second half. With forty five minutes on the pitch, it would be the perfect opportunity for the veteran striker to claim the all-time tournament goalscoring record as his own.
The second half would follow much the same pattern as the first, but ten minutes in the deadlock would finally be broken with a moment of sheer beauty from Thomas Müller. A well-worked training ground routine at a corner would see the unpredictable Mesut Özil send in a dangerous cross, and when US ‘keeper Tim Howard could only parry Mertesacker’s well directed header the unmarked Müller would on hand to take aim and fire with his right foot from the edge of the area. Sweetly struck, the ball would take on a lovely swerving trajectory, eluding the diving Howard before nestling in the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
Müller by his own admission has tended to score “ugly” goals, and he would be more than happy to finally score a pretty one – the sort of picture-postcard effort usually associated with a Neymar, Robben or Messi.
The final half hour would see both sides slowly wind things down, but not completely as to turn things into a quiet afternoon in a – very wet – park. Chances would continue to be made, and Klinsmann’s side would come desperately close to grabbing a point right at the death with substitute Alejandro Bedoya denied by Philipp Lahm’s perfectly-timed sliding challenge.
Conclusion and Ratings
It wouldn’t be the most memorable game Jogi Löw’s side have ever played, but the fiftieth competitive victory of the Nationaltrainer’s time in charge would be the perfect tonic for the defensive ills that has been exposed against Ghana. Boateng would keep his side of the door firmly shut, and while Benedikt Höwedes would again display a lack of pace he too would perform his duties adequately. With the Americans less of a threat through the middle of the park, both Mertesacker and Mats Hummels would have a quiet afternoon alongside ‘keeper Manuel Neuer.
The replacement of disappointingly one-dimensional Podolski with Klose in the second half would inject more life into the attack, and the rejigged defensive midfield would collectively have a solid game with skipper Philipp Lahm forgetting his horror show against Ghana with a clean display alongside the again metronomic Toni Kroos and the recalled Schweinsteiger – who before being replaced by Götze had certainly mounted a firm challenge the keep his place ahead of Khedira in the starting eleven.
In conditions not particularly suited to his style of play Özil would also turn out a decent if not vintage display, but the star of the show would again be the indefatigable Müller. Already looking like a bruised bantamweight boxer the rain would give him the appearance of a damp whippet, but in a game that would see very few genuine chances the spindly FC Bayern man would deliver the ultimate killer blow and allow his team to cruise into the second phase – and an historically interesting second round clash with Group H runners-up Algeria.
More on that later.
A very quiet day for the German ‘keeper, who would solve his boredom issues with the occasional sweeper-keeper foray. Would take off as Graham Zusi’s well-struck effort fizzed over the crossbar midway through the second half, but would spend the rest of the ninety minutes standing around in the rain with nothing much to do.
An excellent all-round display from Boateng, who performed his defensive duties while offering a threat down the right going forward. Showed plenty of purpose in the first half with a number of well-delivered balls into the opposition penalty area, but would have less of an impact during what was a quiet second half.
Another solid showing from Mertesacker, who in truth would have little to do for most of the ninety minutes. At the other end of the pitch, Müller’s goal would come after the Arsenal centre-back had forced US ‘keeper Tim Howard into a good save with his well-directed header.
After being given some early trouble by Clint Dempsey in particular, Hummels would settle down nicely. Solid and serene without being spectacular, like Mertesacker there would be nothing much for Hummels do as the opposition attack were kept quiet all game.
Would be found short of pace at time by the opposition wingers and would also look laboured at times – one such incident would see him being booked for a desperate challenge – but otherwise it would be a solid defensive showing by the Schalke 04 man. Not massively penetrative going forward, but would always be there to provide support.
After his poor showing against Ghana the coach would keep faith with Lahm in the defensive midfield, and the skipper would have a solid if quiet game. Marshalled the defence excellently in tandem with Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger, but will surely be tested by more energetic and purposeful opposition as the competition starts to hot up.
Recalled to the starting lineup instead of Khedira, the FC Bayern man would slot back into the role as if he hadn’t been away. With his solid, fault-free display Schweinsteiger has clearly overcome the worst of his injury problems, and will surely be backing himself to start against Algeria. Was replaced by Mario Götze with fourteen minutes remaining.
Another quietly efficient display from Kroos, who along with Lahm and Schweinsteiger provided a solid midfield shield for the back for. Kept the play ticking over with his accurate and careful distrubution as Germany dominated the possession without being able to deliver the killer ball.
Özil is not quite where he should be, but continues to adapt to the new system. Assumed a more familiar central role with the inclusion of Podolski, and would look at lot more at home in the second half after the introduction of Miroslav Klose. Sent in the cross to initiate the attack that would lead to the winning goal. Was replaced two minutes from time by André Schürrle.
Started strongly, but ran out of ideas as the first half trundled to an end. Was slightly one-dimensional and predictable in his approach, raising questions yet again about his suitability in this 4-3-3 system. While some may prefer to see Podolski remain on the bench, he would be far more effective as an impact substitute late on against tiring defenders rather than a starter. Was replaced by Miroslav Klose at the start of the second half.
A typically energetic display capped with an exquisite long-range finish to clinch all three points for the Nationalmannschaft. Was always present in the opposition box, drawing defenders and working well with those around him. 2010 would signal Müller’s emergence as a man for the special occasion, and his performances in Brazil so far have shown that South Africa was not just a one-off.
Replaced Lukas Podolski at the start of the second half, and immediately offered more to the attack with his movement both on and off the ball. Had one half-chance to score, but would prove his value to the team right at the end by joining Philipp Lahm in defence to foil the States’ last attack in the final moments.
Replaced Bastian Schweinsteiger with just under quarter of an hour left on the clock, and would have little to do with the game meandering to its conclusion.
A very short cameo after coming on for Mesut Özil with just over two minutes remaining.
Neuer (3), Boateng (3), Mertesacker (3), Hummels (3), Höwedes (4), Lahm (4), Schweinsteiger (3), Kroos (4), Özil (4), Podolski (4), Müller (2). Substitutes (until 75 mins): Klose (3).
Neuer (3), Boateng (3), Mertesacker (2.5), Hummels (3), Höwedes (3.5), Lahm (3), Schweinsteiger (2), Kroos (3.5), Özil (3), Podolski (4), Müller (2.5). Substitutes: Klose (3.5).
Neuer (3), Boateng (2.5), Mertesacker (3), Hummels (3), Höwedes (3.5), Lahm (3), Schweinsteiger (3), Kroos (3), Özil (3), Podolski (4), Müller (2). Substitutes (until 75 mins): Klose (3).