Colombia down the USA

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (November 14th 2014)

Enhorabuena los Cafeteros

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A record-breaking crowd for an international at Craven Cottage saw Fulhamʼs ground turn into a suburb of Bogotá for the night as Colombiaʼs World Cup stars beat Jürgen Klinsmannʼs new look USA 2-1. Sunderlandʼs Jozy Altidore converted a penalty to give the USA a shock lead, which they retained until the hour mark. Second half goals by Sevillaʼs Carlos Bacca and River Plateʼs Teófilo Gutiérrez gave los Cafeteros the win.

I think in the first half of the match we started off well” US midfielder Alejandro Bedoya said. “We imposed ourselves physically and we started off aggressively which is the things we talked about to make Colombia problems. I think we were able to do that, but then again in the second half we fell off, stopped being as aggressive and dropped our lines too deep and allowed them too much space to play and when you give a team like Colombia too much time and space they have great players who can find the ball between your lines and it showed in those two goals they scored”.

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Shock

Bedoyaʼs tenth minute free-kick created havoc in Colombiaʼs defence. AC Milanʼs Pablo Armero handled it and the Polish referee pointed to the spot despite protests from the Colombian players that Rubio Rubin had fouled Armero. The officials remained steadfast although the replays suggested that the Colombian had been impeded.

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Altidore out-thought Camilo Vargas deputising for the injured Arsenal goal-keeper David Ospina to give the US team the lead. Colombia, captained by Real Madridʼs James Rodríguez had the better of the play in both halves. Brad Guzan was the busier keeper. A 20th minute Rodríguez free-kick fizzed past Guzanʼs left-hand post. Slightly earlier Bacca headed over from Rodríguezʼ cross and the the Sevillaʼs striker also hit the post from Gutiérrezʼ cross.

Competitive

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Colombia should also have had a penalty as the first half drew to a close, but Polish referee Szymon Marciniak waved away protests led by Sevillaʼs Carlos Bacca, whose shot had been blocked by Jermaine Jonesʼ hand. Moments later Rodríguez was left in a heap after being scythed down by John Brooks. Marciniak gave nothing – a familiar story for the gifted play-maker.

But it wasnʼt all one-way. Abel Aguilar, who plies his trade for Toulouse in Franceʼs Ligue Un escaped sanction for a terrible foul on DeAndre Yedlin. He didnʼt learn, receiving a well-deserved booking for another bad foul on Alejandro Bedoya. Altidore was also booked for fouling Fiorentinaʼs Juan Guillermo Cuadrado in an eventful first half that Colombia shaded, but trailed at half time.

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I think James is the play-maker of this Colombian team. Heʼs absolutely fantastic player, but I think Cuadrado is an amazing player. I donʼt know if he had his best game today in terms of showing his pace when going behind the lines, but you could see how quick he is and how the way he moves off the ball and everything. Heʼs a great player as well, but James is the key to this team”.

Class Tells

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Two minutes into the second half Rubin had the chance to double the USAʼs lead from Bedoyaʼs cross, but his diving header went wide of Vargasʼ left-hand post. With an hour played Colombia got their equaliser, although it had an element of controversy to it. “It was offside”, Jones said emphatically and he had a point of sorts. “I am happy with the goal”, Bacca said. He was also satisfied with Colombiaʼs performance in the World Cup.

With an hour gone Gutiérrez was in an offside position when James Rodríguezʼ deft flick was latched onto by Bacca who rounded Guzan and scored from a tight angle. Gutiérrez never touched the ball or went for it – Bacca, who was onside, did. According to the rules it was not offside even if perhaps it should be. The US youngsters have a stark lesson to learn – play to the whistle.

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The greater quality told as an incisive move by the Colombians culminating in a sumptuous cross by substitute Edwin Cardona was finished by Gutiérrezʼ header to the delight of the raucous crowd – didnʼt know there were so many Colombians in London.

Bedoya was in reflective mood. “We have to fix something mentally, because I feel like the last three or four games weʼve given up late goals, but this what we play these games for – to learn from these games and keep progressing”, he said.

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Testing Times

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (November 14th 2014)

Friendly

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Fresh from their World Cup heroics Colombia and the USA meet in a friendly at Fulhamʼs Craven Cottage tonight. Jürgen Klinsmann has a new look squad as veteran keeper Tim Howard is taking a break from international football. Aston Villaʼs Brad Guzan will provide the last line of defence. “You want to test yourself against the best,” he said of the prospect of facing Real Madrid star James Rodríguez and Fiorentinaʼs Juan Guillermo Cuadrado.

Yesterday, ticket sales reached 23500, which equalled the record for an international at Craven Cottage. Obviously itʼs a very traditional and very special place”, Klinsmann said of the ground. “That we get the opportunity to play a friendly here means a lot to us”.

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Comfort Zones

Klinsmann had to make changes since July. “Weʼre looking forward to an exciting match to a game that gives us a very good benchmark against a team that is in the top five in the world with outstanding players”, he said. “We have a good group of guys here. They are eager to show what they have”.

Klinsmann said that the long-term vision was 2018 and that they were looking forward to playing José Pekermanʼs team. “For us, itʼs huge to play those type of games outside of our comfort zone away from the United States in order to grow and to learn, especially for the younger players you know to face all these top players that Colombiaʼs has”.

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He was impressed with los Cafeteros. “I wouldnʼt say it was a surprise, because prior to the World Cup when you talked about all the nations that qualified there a lot of people mentioned Chile, a lot people mentioned Colombia, how good their individuals, the quality that they have – one of their secret teams maybe going far in the tournament – so it was exciting to see that Colombian team, the way they played, the energy they had, you how they performed, so they deserved really the biggest compliment for that and especially José Pekerman for his work there”.

He expects to be a wiser man about his team after Friday night. “For us … itʼs very important that we have these games where we have to figure out to solve things on the field in a one match situation, because our next biggest learning curve is once we get out hopefully of the group again, how we actually advance in the knock-out system”, Klinsmann said.

Klinsmann believes that such matches are essential if the USA is to become a top team. “This is our learning curve, to learn in one game at a time to go further and further and further to develop that mentality – that mindset – to do that, so thatʼs why we badly need those games against the best teams that we can find to give us that opportunity to play them”, he said. “No matter where in the world, weʼre going to go there and weʼre going to play those games”.

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Rebuilding

He believes that his team will benefit from pitting their skills against such a good team and that his youngsters have to be tested against the best. “You can see their progress and thatʼs what we want to experience”, Klinsmann said of the young players. “We want them to grow confident … We want to do well against a very, very good Colombian side

and has great respect for his opposite number José Pekerman, dating back to the World Cup in 2006. “Iʼm a big admirer of José Pekerman”, Klinsmann said. “A wonderful person that I played against for Germany in the World Cup of 2006 and I visited him once in México. What he built there is exceptional. Itʼs fantastic to see, so this is what we need. We need those benchmarks now and weʼre eager to give them a real fight.

Goals

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Brad Guzan will play tonight. “Itʼs important to play these competitive games, because they help set benchmarks of where we are as a team, as individuals and how much we continue to grow”, he said. “Ultimately the goal is four years – the World Cup – we have a lot of stepping stones before that, but the goal is 2018. Thatʼs going to be a special time. To be successful in big tournaments you have to play against the best teams in the world. You use these games to hopefully prepare for the bigger stage and ultimately the World Cup”.

Guzan knows that he will face an impressoive set of strikers and team with James Rodríguez pulling the strings. He is unfazed. “Youʼre always expecting to play against the best players in the world, because itʼs an opportunity to test yourself, so nothing changes for me in that aspect” ,he said.

He echoes Klinsmannʼs beliefs. “As a team, itʼs always a challenge and especially we know itʼs going to be a good Colombia team from top to bottom, so for us itʼs going to be an important night and these are the games you want to be a part of”, Guzan said. “You want to test yourself against the best players, against the best teams. These are the exciting matches that you want to be a part of”.

The New Dynasty

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (July 13th 2014)

The Tactician

With the spectre of penalties looming Bayern München’s Mario Götze’s spectacular goal ended Germany’s 18 year wait for a trophy at the Estádio Maracanã tonight. Joachim Löw’s strategy and patience had finally been rewarded with the ultimate triumph. With eight minutes of the second period of extra time remaining a quick throw-in down the left flank released Chelsea’s André Schürrle.

His cross was chested down and volleyed across the Monaco’s second choice keeper Sergio Romero for the goal that won the World Cup. It was a strike worthy of ending almost two decades of pain and a decade for the clinical tactician Löw. There was a typically German meticulous attention to detail to Löw’s planning that required unusual patience to bear fruit and deliver the foundations for continued success – domination even.

The Next Generation

Eight years ago Löw took over the Mannschaft from Jürgen Klinsmann, who had blooded the youngsters who now provided the experience to blend with the undoubted promise of the next generation, which hammered England’s youth five years ago. Captained by 30-year-old Philipp Lahm the Mannschaft has integrated exceptionally talented youngsters – the Under-20 European Cup winning team of 2009 – and delivered their first senior title.

Germany’s team of World beaters is young and achieved the top prize in half the time it took Spain’s tiki-taki generation to translate youthful promise into senior prowess. Five years ago Germany’s Under-20 team destroyed England 4-0 in Malmo to claim an important trophy. Manuel Neuer, Benedikt Höwedes, Mats Hummels, Jérôme Boateng, Mesut Özil and Sami Khedira played a huge part in German success as youngsters and now in the senior team too.

But for Khedira’s injury during warming up more than half of that Cup-winning team would have started the World Cup Final. Löw’s plans for German domination for years to come appear to be built on solid foundations. Few deny that Germany were worthy winners and the team of the tournament.

Small Margins

Despite the odd flash of genius Barçelona’s Lionel Messi failed to provide the moment of genius capable of settling Argentina’s nerves, or even testing the Goalkeeper of the Tournament, Germany’s sweeper/keeper Manuel Neuer. But Germany didn’t have everything their own way.

Argentina had the best of the first half and even had the ball in the net, but Argentina should have taken the lead earlier. Napoli’s Gonzalo Higuaín will have nightmares for the rest of his career over the glaring miss that prolongs an even longer wait for silverware than Germany’s for his country. The Albiceleste last lifted a major trophy in 1993 – the Copa América.

A defensive header out by Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels was inexplicably headed back into Higuaín’s path by Toni Kroos. The Real Madrid bound midfielder’s error should have been punished by Higuaín, but Neuer was quick off his line, making himself a bigger obstacle. Higuaín lobbed him, but his effort went wide. Credit to Neuer, but Higuaín had to score that.

Redemption Lost

Ten minutes later Higuaín thought that redemption had come. A glorious pass by Messi released Ezequiel Lavezzi on the right wing. Lavezzi’s cross was converted by Higuaín – a more difficult chance, but eagle-eyed assistant referee Andrea Steffani had spotted an offside and the goal was disallowed.

Germany had chances too. With half-time approaching Kroos’ corner was met by a virtually unmarked Benedikt Höwedes. His header hit the post, but the assistant referee’s flag was quickly raised as Thomas Müller was offside.

Shortly after the break Lucas Biglia put Messi through on the left of the area, but Messi pulled his shot wide of Neuer’s left hand post. A player of Messi’s class should have scored. It was far from a dirty match, but once again the directive struck. Javier Mascherano has arguably been Argentina’s most important player – allowing Messi to shin – but while no quarter was asked or given the desire to avoid cards being shown turned into a foulers’ charter.

No Quarter Asked or Given

Mascherano was booked for a lunge on Miroslav Klose after losing possession, but escaped further sanction for further fouling later, including a double-team lunge with Lucas Biglia on Bastian Schweinsteiger. The Bayern München midfielder was the victim of some harsh treatment.

Manchester City’s Sergio Agüero, plagued by injuries, replaced Lavezzi at half time and soon made a nuisance of himself. Within twenty minutes of coming on he was deservedly booked for an atrocious foul on Schweinsteiger. Agüero can have no complaints. He could have been sent off, but another offence early in the second period of extra time left Schweinsteiger bloodied as Agüero’s hand connected with the German’s head. Sami Khedira was incensed.

Khedira’s last minute replacement Christoph Kramer suffered a head injury after a collision with Marcos Rojo. Eventually, Kramer had to be replaced by Schürrle. His injury reignited the debate on whether concussed or dazed players should be allowed to play on whether they want to or not. There was no question of intent or malice in the challenge. Others were fortunate to remain on the pitch.

Exploitation

Neuer was fortunate to escape a card. Just over ten minutes into the second half he leapt high and caught Higuaín in the head with his knee. Higuaín was distinctly unimpressed, but there was no card for Neuer. Incredibly the officials penalised Higuaín. It made a mockery of the tournament as thuggery on the pitch was rewarded with a licence to foul – one that Brasilian legend Zico said had been exploited.

Far from protecting skilful players from unwanted cards and suspensions, it put a mark on their backs that was cynically exploited by the least skilful and thuggish teams – Brasil was just the highest profile example of this. This wretched approach invaded the final too. But the football was entertaining too.

Icons

Both sides tried to win. No sooner had extra time started that both sides attacked. Höwedes passed to Schürrle who went to ground after prodding it to Götze. Schürrle got up and received Götze’s pass before shooting, but Romero parried. Five minutes later Marcos Rojo delivered an excellent cross, but substitute Rodrigo Palacio’s first touch cost him dear. Neuer got off his line quickly and Palacio’s lob went wide. He should have scored.

Well into injury time Argentina had a free-kick. Messi took it and blasted it well over. The curtain fell on Argentina’s dreams of Maracanazo II and on Messi’s hopes to match national icon Diego Maradona’s place in his country’s affections.

Cometh the Hour?

 

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (July 12th 2014)

Wilderness Years Begin

Germanyʼs recent record in major finals is – well – unGerman. Renowned for ruthless efficiency they could be relied on to always be in the mix for major trophies, but the last time Germany lifted a trophy was in 1996. Remember who the successful coach was – a certain Berti Vogts. Argentinaʼs record is even worse. Their last appearance in the final was a losing effort in 1990 – an awful final. 

He inherited Franz Beckenbauerʼs World Cup winning team in 1990 and led then to defeat to Denmark in 1992. He left after eight years in charge after falling in the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 1994 and again in 1998 to Bulgaria and Croatia respectively.

Erich Ribeck led der Mannschaft (the national team) to a shameful exit in Euro2000 – bottom of their qualifying group. Rudi Völler managed one place better in Euro2004. Latvia finished below them, but two years earlier Völler led Germany to defeat in the final to Brasil. Luiz Felipe Scolari was Brasilʼs manager then.

Overdue

After the failure at Euro2004 Jürgen Klinsmann replaced Völler. Germany reached the semi-final of the 2006 World Cup on home soil as Klinsmann blooded a young team and left the team to his assistant Joachim Löw, but despite the studious approach of Löw trophies continued to elude der Mannschaft. Löwʼs team matched Klinsmannʼs achievement finishing third. On both occasions Germany lost to the eventual winners.

Spainʼs rise to dominance began in 2008 in Austria. The late Luis Aragonés Suárez ushered in six years of unparalleled success by beating Germany 1-0 in the final. They knocked Löwʼs charges out in the semi-final in Durban in South Africaʼs World Cup. And in the Ukraine and Poland, Spain retained their European title, beating Italy 4-0 in the final. Germany had been beaten 2-1 by Italy in the semi-final.

Opportunity Knocks

Spainʼs defence of their world title was one of the worst ever. Sated by their three titles Spain returned home at the first opportunity. Germany continued growing into the competition with every passing match, culminating in a humiliating mauling of hosts Brasil 7-1 in Belo Horizonte – the worst thrashing ever in the semi-final of a World Cup.

The previous worst was 84 years ago in the inaugural World Cup when eventual winners Uruguay beat Yugoslavia 6-1 and the USA lost 6-1 to Argentina. Austria lost 6-1 to West Germany in 1954 as well. It had three times and at least one of them had a very good reason for losing so badly – they played a large portion of the match effectively with eight players. One of the wounded was the goal-keeper.

The USA never had a chance. The rules permitted no substitutions and Argentina had taken no prisoners on their way through to Belo Horizonte. Their goal-keeper was injured after 4 minutes. Another player played on injured and a third played with a broken leg until half time. This was before substitutions were allowed.

Best Chance

Surely Germany will never have a better chance to end almost two decades of trophylessness. They topped their group – one of the most difficult, dismantling Portugal, drawing with Ghana and just beating the USA before Algeria gave them a fright, but fell just short. They deservedly beat France and completely humiliated Brasil.

Nobody can say Germany has not reached the final on merit. They have reached finals and semi-finals, but ultimately this tournament will be viewed a failure if they fail to match Italyʼs achievement and win the World Cup for the fourth time. Germany have done well; theyʼve got close before. Is it Germanyʼs time to win the World Cup?

Arsenalʼs Lukas Podolski thinks so. “Of course”, he said before Arsenal ended their own trophy drought. “Of course we want to win the World Cup, but other teams want that as well and it was not easy. The pressure is big because we would say Germany are the favourites – the people in Germany, the newspapers say we already win the World Cup, but itʼs not easy”.

 

U-S-A! – The Aftermath

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (July 4th 2014)

The Tour

The USA topped their group to reach the semi-final of the inaugural World Cup. It was against Argentina, whose enforcer, later to become a World Cup winning Oriundo – an immigrant of Italian or Spanish descent – Luis Monti played hard and injured opponents. The USA lost 6-1, but that was in the days before substitutions. The Argentinians put their boots in and within four minutes goal-keeper James Douglas was hurt, but forced to play on. He wasnʼt the only American who played hurt. Argentina won easily, but the Americans were put at an early disadvantage.

Raphael Tracey suffered a broken leg with just ten minutes played. He bravely continued playing until forced off at half time. Argentina were 1-0 up at the time thanks to Monti. The US had to play the rest of the match with ten men – two of whom were also injured. They lost 6-1 – an early example of the failure of the officials to protect players from ugly play exemplified by the Argentinians and Monti in particular. He repeated the role for Vittorio Pozziʼs Italy

Argentina lost the inaugural World Cup Final to hosts Uruguay, then the best team in the world – a nation that punches ridiculously above its weight in terms of population. The USA stayed in South America and toured the continent. Bizarrely only their 4-3 defeat against Brasil at Rio de Janeiroʼs Estádio das Laranjeiras – the former home of Fluminense – on August 17th 1930 was recognised as an international.

Betrand Patenaude scored a brace for the Americans and Adelino (Billy) Gonsalves – one of the best players the USA ever produced – got the other. It was his only goal for his country. Before Pelé broke his record Carlos Alberto Dobbert de Carvalho Leite was the youngest footballer to play in the World Cup Finals – a record he set in 1930. He had only just turned 18. Carvalho Leite also scored in the friendly against the USA. Teóphilo Pereira, (João Coelho Neto) Preguinho – Brasilʼs captain at the 1930 World Cup and scorer of his countryʼs first goal in that competition – (Alfredo de Almeida Rego) Doca scored the others for Brasil. All of the Brasilians were part of Brasilʼs squad for the World Cup. Only Doca didnʼt play.

Gonsalves and three others, including the teamʼs captain Tom Florie, also represented the USA four years later in Italyʼs first World Cup. They beat México 4-2 in Roma on May 25th 1934 three days before the tournament opened to clinch their place in the finals. Aldo Donelli scored all four of the USAʼs goals.

Their stay was not a long one and despite the dark arts used later by eventual winners Italy there was no controversy over Italyʼs first round win – a 7-1 thrashing of the USA that could have been even worse, but for goal-keeper Julian Hjulian. Donelli scored the Americanʼs goal, but they were three down at the time.

Argentine-born Raimundo Orsi got a brace, although he had switched allegiance to Italy in 1929, so unlike Luis Monti he didnʼt play for Argentina in the 1930 World Cup. Bolognaʼs Angelo Schiavio got a hat-trick, and Italian legends Giovanni Ferrari and Giuseppe Meazza.

The Huddled Masses

Immigrants played a great part in the USAʼs success in football in both 1930 and again in 1950. It has its roots in the generation of immigrants who came to America in the two decades before the World Cup. Football had a following in the factory teams and it was reflected in the national team too before the Great Depression destroyed football in the USA. People had other priorities – life and survival was more important.

Six of the starting team for the USA were born in Britain – one Englishman and five Scottish-born players. The next generation of American heroes came twenty years later. They included foreign born players too. Among them was a Belgian war hero and they were captained by a Scot while the iconic goal that made them heroes was scored by a Haitian – Joseph Gaetjens. The current generation has five German-Americans in Jürgen Klinsmannʼs squad. It was controversial before they arrived in Brasil, but Klinsmann has earned the right to take the sport to the next stage.

 

 

 U-S-A! – Their Greatest Achievement

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (July 4th 2014)

Achievements

Despite a sensational performance in qualifying second to Germany, but ahead of an ordinary Portugal with one exceptional, but injured player and a disputes riven Ghana in a difficult group and a glorious defeat to Belgium in the last sixteen, Americans may at last have warmed to football. Not even hosting the World Cup in 1994, their league Major League Soccer (MLS) and reaching the quarter-final in 2002 could help the worldʼs most popular sport break the American market.

This time Americans got behind their team and believed in them, largely due to the efforts of their coach Jürgen Klinsmann, but the US failed to match their greatest achievement, which is not the quarter-final in 2002 as several commentators have wrongly said. The USAʼs greatest performance came at the first attempt – the semi-finals in the inaugural World Cup in 1930, which they managed on merit by topping their group.

84 years before they would meet again in the World Cup Finals the USA beat Belgium 3-0 on July 13th 1930. Bart McGhee got the first goal the American ever scored. Just over 20 minutes later with half-time looming Tom Florie got the second and Bertrand Patenaude got the third with just over 20 minutes remaining.

The First Hat-trick

Four days later an important piece of World Cup history was made. The USA beat Paraguay 3-0 – Patenaude had scored all three, but it took 76 years for FIFA to acknowledge what the Americans knew. Patenaude had scored the first hat-trick in the history of the World Cup.

But for 76 years – over 40 of which Patenaude had been deceased – his second goal against Paraguay was wrongly attributed as an own goal by Paraguayan great Aurelio González Benítez or by US team-mate Florie. Both Patenaude and the man wrongly attributed with having scored the first hat-trick, Argentinaʼs Guillermo Stábille, never lived to see the error put right.

Stábille scored a hat-trick on his début in the 6-3 victory over México. It came two days after the USA had beaten Paraguay 3-0. The US federation believed – rightly as it turned out – that their second goal against Paraguay had in fact been scored by Patenaude and that consequently he had scored the first hat-trick in the history of the World Cup.

On November 10th – a day after the anniversary of his birth and death – 2006 FIFA finally acknowledged that Patenaude had scored a hat-trick on July 17th 1930 at Nacionalʼs Estadio Parque Central in Montevideo. It had taken just over three quarters of a century to acknowledge the feat of the American.

 

USA Qualify despite losing to Germany

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 26th 2014)

Müller downs Klinsmannʼs USA

There was no question of an easy and convenient draw that would have suited both teams. Joachim Löwʼs team defeated his former bossʼ USA 1-0. Thomas Müller scored the only goal of the match after 54 minutes. He joins Brasilʼs Neymar and Argentinaʼs Lionel Messi as the tournamentʼs top scorer to date on four goals.

With Portugal beating Ghana 2-1 in the other match the result was enough for both Germany and the USA to go through to the last sixteen. Arsenalʼs record signing Mesut Özilʼs corner was returned to him before he crossed from the right. Club colleague Per Mertesackerʼs header was parried by American goal-keeper Tim Howard. Müller curled his shot into the opposite corner to Howardʼs left. There was nothing that the 35 year-old Everton keeper could do about it.

Chances?

In 2006 Jürgen Klinsmann took a young German team to the semi-final of Germanyʼs World Cup playing entertaining attacking football. Klinsmann resigned – he lived in the USA and commuted. The future for German football looked bright. Klinsmannʼs assistant at that tournament took over. Löw has yet to deliver the big prize – Spain proved a formidable barrier, but both Löw and Klinsmann remain true to their principles and football philosophy.

Nevertheless clear cut chances were at a premium prior to the goal. Müller was thwarted by a couple of last ditch blocks by the LA Galaxyʼs Omar Gonzalez, but the better chances fell to the Americans. Michael Bradley released Graham Zusi on the left just outside the area. Zusiʼs shot curled just over Manuel Neuerʼs goal. Ten minutes later Bradleyʼs through-ball just eluded Jermaine Jones – an integral part of Klinsmannʼs influx of German-American talent.

At half time the false 9 tactic gave way to a record-equalling centre forward Miroslav Klose. It almost bore fruits immediately. Bayern Münchenʼs Jérôme Boateng crossed for Klose shortly after the second half began, but the impressive Gonzalez intercepted again. Minutes later Philipp Lahmʼs cross was just too high for Klose.

Collisions

A nasty collision between Jones and substitute Alejandro Bedoya left both Americans needing treatment. Bedoya had been rightly booked seconds after coming on for a foul on Bastian Schweinsteiger. During injury time the USA pressed for an equaliser they only needed for pride.

DeAndré Yedlinʼs ball into centre was laid off by Jones for Bedoya to shoot, but a superb block by Lahm averted the danger. Moments later US skipper Clint Dempseyʼs header from Jonesʼ nod-on cleared Neuerʼs bar. Germany held on to top the group while the USA reached the last sixteen – a huge achievement in such a tough group for a country where football is a minority interest sport. They would almost certainly face Marc Wilmotsʼ young Belgium side while Germany could face Algeria – victims of an infamous fix 32 years ago between West Germany and Austria which changed the format of the group stage of the World Cup.