The Telegraph
Thursday , June 26 , 2014
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Promise to play clean

German players joke during a practice session, at Santo Andre. Germany face the USA in a Group G match, at Recife, on Thursday

Recife: The spectre of one of the most infamous episodes in World Cup history looms over Germany and the United States as they clash on Thursday for a place in the last 16.

The two teams have four points apiece heading into their final Group G match and a draw at the Arena Pernambuco, here, would see both qualify at the expense of Portugal and Ghana. The sense of intrigue has been heightened by the fact that Germany coach Joachim Loew and his United States’ boss Juergen Klinsmann are old friends.

The match scenario has evoked memories of a notorious 1982 World Cup game between Austria and the then West Germany. That game in the Spanish city of Gijon ended in controversy after the two sides effectively conspired to secure a 1-0 victory for the West Germans, allowing them to qualify ahead of Algeria.

The shockwaves from that encounter continue to be felt in recent times as well. Now, of course, neither the Germans nor the Americans would like to invite further controversy and hence, it seems both would go out for the kill on Thursday.

“We have that fighting spirit and energy and determination to do well in every single game,” Klinsmann said. “I don’t think it will be a game for draws. Both teams will go into the game and want to top the group.”

Germany’s coaching staff and players also dismiss repeated questions about the possibility of anything untoward.

“I can only say a concrete ‘No’. We’ve already said we want to win the game and that’s how we’ll play over 90 minutes,” assistant coach Hansi Flick said.

According to centre-back Mats Hummels, the Germans had no interest in anything other than a victory. “It would be unsportsmanlike to do that and not fair too. Besides, we want to win the game,” he said.

Team manager Oliver Bierhoff also dismissed the possibility of playing out a draw. “We want to win. Everything else is uninteresting.”

A win for either would open the door for Ghana and Portugal to slip into second place.

Germany and the United States have four points, while Ghana and Portugal have one each. Both Germany and the United States could even afford to lose and still advance, depending on the outcome of the other match. Germany have an edge because of their superior goal difference (+4) over the Americans (+1).

That said, the Germans have been truly left surprised with the performance United States footballers have put up so far in this World Cup. “They are playing a very good tournament. I did not expect them to be so strong. “They beat us last year 4-3 (in a friendly) and clearly, they are a good team,” Hummels said.

With both teams having shown the intent of playing positive football, it seems an intriguing contest in on the cards though the three-time champions are a bit ahead in terms of quality.

Thomas Mueller, who needed five stitches next to his right-eye after a collision in the Ghana match, would certainly be itching to strike and contribute for his side after being a tad subdued last Saturday. Klinsmann, too, on his part has the likes of Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey to turn to as far as bailing the team out of trouble is concerned.