Order Restored in Rainy Recife

It is a very wet afternoon on Brazil’s north-eastern coast, with the city of Recife being hit by a massive rainstorm that has brought widespread flooding to the area. Reports and images coming in before the match have shown flooded streets, and the rain is still coming down as we approach the match that will conclude the group phase for Germany and the United States. Both teams are sitting on top of Group G on four points with the Nationalmannschaft ahead on goal difference, meaning that a draw will be good enough to take Joachim Löw’s side through to the knockout phase as group winners.

The pitch at the Arena Pernambuco is damp but fine – meaning that the match is all set to kick off at the scheduled time – but with the ground located some thirty kilometres from the city centre there are plenty of empty spaces in the stands as supporters are clearly finding it difficult to make their way there. It is if anything an indictment of the contrasting conditions in Brazil: while the stadium is in a good and playable condition in spite of the heavy rainfall, the conditions in the city are terrible with some parts under a more than a metre of flood water.

Having made their way to the stadium in good time the players make their way out on to the field in the rain, led by experienced Uzbek referee Ravshan Irmatov. There are two changes from the German team that had lined up against Ghana, with Bastian Schweinsteiger coming in for Sami Khedira and winger Lukas Podolski replacing Mario Götze. While the inclusion of Schweinsteiger looks to be a response to Khedira visibly tiring against Ghana, the start for Podolski is clearly a tactical change – a strategy to introduce more physicality and defensive order to the midfield.

As the designated “home” team the United States – coached by former Nationaltrainer Jürgen Klinsmann – are in their all-white attire, while Germany for the first time play in their change kit of black and red hooped shirts, black shorts and black socks.

1 min. As people continue to fill the stands and the rain keeps falling, Klinsmann’s men get things under way.

2 mins. The first attack of the game sees Germany break down the right through right-back Jérôme Boateng, who sends a while flighted cross into the American box. Thomas Müller attempts a spectacular flying finish, but is unable to get anything on the ball. Having taken that blow to the face against Ghana, the spindly Müller is looking like a tall bantamweight, complete with a plaster on his left eye.

6 mins. It has been an encouraging start for the Nationalmannschaft on what is a fast and slick surface, and Boateng again makes his way down the right behind the white-shirted defence. This time is first-time cross is a little too much in front of Müller, and US ‘keeper Tim Howard collects.

8 mins. Another German cross, this time from Podolski on the left. Müller is again lurking in the danger zone, but Howard is able to gather.

10 mins. The opening ten minutes have been all Germany, with Boateng looking particularly dangerous moving forward down the right flank. The FC Bayern München man is able to send in yet another cross towards Müller, which fizzes across the six-yard box as defender Omar Gonzalez kicks at thin air. The ball skids past Gonzalez, but that could so easily have finished as an own goal.

12 mins. Fabian Johnson breaks down the right for the US, muscling past Benedikt Höwedes. Before the former German Under-21 international can get away, he is hooked down by the Schalke 04 left-back who is shown the yellow card. It is Germany’s first booking of the tournament.

14 mins. Having been squeezed early on Klinsmann’s side finally get some possession, but another fast German break sees Boateng making his way into the opposition half yet again. There’s another cross, but this time Gonzalez is right there to get in front of Müller.

16 mins. Gonzalez is called into action yet again after a neat exchange between Schweinsteiger and Müller.

18 mins. Schweinsteiger is clearly upended by the distinctive Kyle Beckerman, but the linesman has already raised his flag for offside.

20 mins. Müller tries his luck from outside the box, but once again it is easy for Howard in the American goal.

22 mins. The first real threat from the Americans, as Mike Bradley and Graham Zusi combine well outside the German box. Zusi has plenty of space to line up a shot from distance, which whistles just over the crossbar.

30 mins. After the bright start things appear to have slowed down a little for Jogi Löw’s side. There is however time for a comedy moment as Jermain Jones jogs towards the German box without looking in front of him and runs straight into referee Irmatov. The Schalke 04 man goes tumbling over, with the referee unable to show himself the yellow card for obstruction.

32 mins. Toni Kroos finds a little space to let fly, but his left-footed shot is hit straight at Howard.

35 mins. As things continue to tick away in Recife, some distance to the west in Brasilia Portugal have taken the lead against Ghana. With the Portuguese needing a massive win to have any hope of progressing into the last sixteen this is not a bad situation for both the Germans and the Americans.

36 mins. Germany manage to get a shot on target, but Mesut Özil’s low left-footed effort is straightforward enough for Howard.

38 mins. A counter-attack from the Mannschaft following a foiled US move sees Schweinsteiger bundled over by Gonzalez, who is shown the yellow card.

40 mins. Podolski whips in a cross from the left towards Müller, but it is easy for Howard.

42 mins. The US win a corner and make nothing of it, and as the Germans look to make progress towards Howard’s goal Schweinsteiger is pecked at by both Jones and Brad Davis.

45 + 1 mins. The whistle is blown for half-time.

After the bright start for Jogi Löw’s side that could easily have seen an early goal, things would settle down around the twenty minute mark with both sides looking like a decent match for each other in tricky conditions. Germany have looked the more dangerous of the two sides with the US so far unable to threaten Manuel Neuer in the German goal, but at the other end US ‘keeper Howard hasn’t had much to deal with either.

Probably the most impressive player on the pitch for the Mannschaft has been Boateng, who has managed to combine his defensive duties effectively with a number of decent runs down the right flank.

There’s a change for Germany as Miroslav Klose comes on for the largely ineffective Podolski, which will see Müller drop back out to the right of the midfield. It’s a positive move from the coach, who is clearly looking to win the game rather than amble through with a draw.

46 mins. The men in black and red kick off the second half.

48 mins. Gonzalez is called into action yet again from the Americans, as he heads another Boateng cross clear with Özil lurking.

50 mins. As in the first half, the Germans have made a decent start to the second forty-five minutes. Another cross is floated over towards Müller, this time from Philipp Lahm.

52 mins. It’s Schweinsteiger’s turn to float the ball into the opposition box, toward Klose at the far post. It’s just a little to wide and high for the veteran striker, who is unable to get any strength behind his headed effort which floats wide of the target.

54 mins. The pressure is starting to build on Klinsi’s boys now. Lahm is fouled and the resulting free-kick from Kroos is followed by a corner as the Americans desperately try to clear.

55 mins. The corner is taken short by Özil, who quickly receives a return ball from Kroos. With an almost nonchalant swing of his left foot Özil sends the ball into the American box, finding centre-back Per Mertesacker who directs a firm header towards the bottom-left corner of the goal. Howard dives brilliantly to his right to keep the ball out but parries it straight to Müller, who returns it with considerable interest into the bottom right-hand corner of the net. It’s a stunning fourth goal of the tournament for Der Raumdeuter, and finally the pressure pays off for the Mannschaft. 1-0.

Thomas Müller’s curling effort is enough to give Germany a hard-earned win in a rainy Recife

58 mins. As it stands Germany are now clear in the group table with seven points, with the US ahead of Portugal on goal difference. However news starts to filter through that Ghana have equalised, which is both good and bad news for Klinsmann’s side. With the score at 1-1 in Brasilia the Americans will definitely go through, but a second for Ghana would clearly make things interesting as both games enter the final half an hour.

59 mins. Alejandro Bedoya is on for Davis as Klinsmann makes his first personnel change.

62 mins. Beckerman earns his team’s second booking after a clumsy-looking foul on Schweinsteiger.

64 mins. German ‘keeper Neuer finally sees a bit of action he ventures out of his area to foil an opposition attack and make the clearance.

70 mins. With the Germans looking good value for their lead, the tempo is gradually beginning to drop a little. The Americans are finding it hard going, and have been unable to produce the attacking verve shown in their opening two games.

74 mins. The Americans are even running into each other now, as Jones and substitute Bedoya have a clash of heads. Both players make their way off the field.

76 mins. A second charge for Germany sees the solid but heavily worked Schweinsteiger replaced by the sprightly Mario Götze.

80 mins. Both Jones and Bedoya are back on the pitch, and at the same time in Brasilia Portugal score a second to provide some much wanted relief on the American bench. As things stand, it will take a mathematical miracle to knock Klinsmann’s team out.

82 mins. The game has visibly slowed down to a canter now, and it’s not surprising given the combination of the humid conditions, the rain and the group situation. DeAndre Yedlin is on for Zusi as the US make a second change.

84 mins. Özil is foiled by Matt Besler after a neat interchange with the tireless Müller who appears impervious to everything going in around him.

88 mins. Özil’s afternoon comes to an end to warm applause from the German supporters in the crowd, and André Schürrle is sent on for a two and bit minute cameo.

90 mins. The game ticks into additional time, with four minutes indicated by the touchline official.

90 + 4 mins. Right at the death the US create their best chance of the entire match. Jones and skipper Clint Dempsey combine brilliantly to put Bedoya through on goal, but Lahm does brilliantly to execute the perfect sliding challenge. As Germany struggle to clear Dempsey has another opportunity, but his header loops over the crossbar. The referee signals for full time.

In testing conditions, it has been a solid and professional display from Jogi Löw’s side against a tough and well-organised but fairly limited opponent. Apart from the frenetic final moments it has been a much better defensive performance by the Mannschaft after their second-half meltdown against Ghana, with the US unable to get a single threatening shot on target.

The 1-0 win takes Germany to the top of the group table on seven points, three clear of both the United States and Portugal, with the US holding onto second place on goal difference ahead of the Portuguese. In what has been a spectacular tournament it would not be the most exciting game, but it would be settled with a moment of pure brilliance from Thomas Müller. Müller’s exquisite right-footed strike would be the twenty-four year old’s ninth World Cup finals goal in as many games and his fourth of the tournament, taking him level with Brazilian Neymar and Argentinian Lionel Messi.

Having secured their position at the top of the group, all that remains is to see who will provide the opposition for Löw’s side in the second phase. With Belgium clear favourites to top Group H, this will be one of Algeria, Russia and South Korea. With the Koreans needing both a win against the Belgians and a mathematical miracle, the odds are on a meeting with Algeria or Russia, with the North Africans only needing a draw to reach the knockout stage for the first time in their history – and set up a replay of the infamous group stage encounter in Spain in 1982.

v United States, Arena Pernambuco, Recife (First Phase Group G) 26.06.2014

1-0 (0-0)
Müller 55. / –

Germany: Neuer – Boateng, Mertesacker, Hummels, Höwedes – Lahm (c) – Schweinsteiger (76. Götze), Kroos – Özil (89. Schürrle), Podolski (46. Klose) – Müller

United States: Howard – Johnson , Gonzalez, Besler, Beasley – Beckerman, Jones – Zusi (84. Yedlin), Bradley, Davis (59. Bedoya) – Dempsey (c)

Referee: Ravshan Irmatov (Uzbekistan)
Assistants: Abduxamidullo Rasulov, Bakhadyr Kochkarov (Uzbekistan)
Fourth Official: Néant Alioum (Cameroon)
Fifth Official: Djibril Camara (Senegal)

Yellow Cards: Höwedes 12. / Gonzalez 38., Beckerman 62.
Red Cards: – / –

Ball Possession: 63% / 37%
Attempts on Target: 9 / 1
Attempts off Target: 4 / 3
Corners: 3 / 2
Fouls Committed: 9 / 15

Attendance: 41,876

Man of the Match: Thomas Müller

Order Restored in Rainy Recife

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