United States vs. Germany preview: American revenge opportunity for 2002 World Cup

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For a World Cup that’s being widely touted as the most entertaining ever, the drama will ramp up one notch higher on Thursday (12:00pm ET) when the United States face Germany in Recife and Ghana play Portugal in Brasilia to determine who will advance out of Group G.

The high-quality displays, bravery, spirit and gut-wrenching drama have made the US the darlings of this tournament but whether those characteristics will be enough to see the Americans through to the Round of 16, however, remains to be seen.

After substitute defender John Anthony Brooks disposed of arch-nemesis Ghana with a thumping 86th minute header to win the opener 2-1, the Yanks took their no-nonsense style to a Portugal side ranked 4th in the world, drawing 2-2 after Selecção forward Silvestre Varela scored in the fifth and final minute of injury time.

It’s no time for back-patting, however, because tomorrow Jurgen Klinsmann’s side faces its biggest challenge yet in world #2, Germany. With one of the deepest, most talent-laced squads in the world, Die Mannschaft is many-a-pundit’s favorite to hoist the cup come July. After a Thomas Muller hat-trick helped them comprehensively destroy Portugal 4-0 in the opener the Germans fought to a shock 2-2 draw with Ghana in the second match, proving themselves incapable of handling the athleticism and audaciousness of the Black Stars.

Now, with the US and Germany locked at four points apiece and Portugal and Ghana each on a single point heading into the final match of the group stage, it truly is all to play for. The scenarios to advance vary wildly.

The clearest path to advancing for the US is by beating Germany, making them Group G winners who would take on the runner-up of Group H in the Round of 16, or drawing, putting them runners-up to face the winner of Group H. A loss to Germany, however, could also see the Americans through so long as a) Ghana and Portugal draw, b) Portugal wins but don’t pass the US in goal differential, or c) Ghana win by one goal in which they don’t score two more goals than the US.

Germany, on the other hand, will advance as Group G winners with a win or draw against the US, or as Group G runners-up if they lose and either Ghana-Portugal draw, or if the Ghana-Portugal winner does not pass Germany in goal differential.

Given these scenarios, that the US have five players born to American fathers and German mothers, and Klinsmann being German and having won the 1990 World Cup with West Germany, it’s impossible to ignore the whispers of conspiracy where a draw would take both sides through.

But both sides are adamant that won’t be the case.

“I think both teams go into this game and they want to win the group,” Klinsmann said when posed the question following Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Portugal. Germany defender Mats Hummels echoed the sentiment, saying, ”[i]t would be highly unsportsmanlike and unfair to other teams if anyone on the pitch had such thoughts.”

With rumors of collusion cast aside the focus can remain on the pitch. Germany is expected to play a similar team that started against Ghana with Manuel Neuer behind a back four of Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng, Per Mertesacker and Benedikt Howedes, a midfield three of Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos and Phillip Lahm and an attacking three of Mesut Ozil, Mario Gotze and the in-form Muller. Don’t be surprised, however, if Lahm moves back to his favored full-back slot, Howedes exits, and Bastian Schweinsteiger comes into the midfield.

Likewise, the US is expected to adopt the same 4-2-3-1 formation it set out against Portugal with Tim Howard behind a back four of DaMarcus Beasley, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler and Fabian Johnson, a holding pair of Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones, an attacking three of Graham Zusi, Michael Bradley and Alejandro Bedoya, with Clint Dempsey the lone striker. Jozy Altidore, who injured his hamstring in the opening match against Ghana, remains out.

The two sides memorably met in the 2002 World Cup quarterfinal in South Korea where Germany won 1-0 on a 39th minute header by Michael Ballack. It’s a result that haunts Americans after a fantastic display went unrewarded after Gregg Berhalter’s 50th minute shot was deflected by Oliver Kahn onto the hand of Torsten Frings but no penalty was given.

For Americans it was a match that has lived in infamy and now, twelve years later, the opportunity for revenge has finally arrived. Game on.

 

 

Report: Frank De Boer accepts Crystal Palace job

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Frank de Boer is widely expected to be named new Crystal Palace manager this week, as he has reportedly accepted the job after having been offered the position this week.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

The 47-year-old Dutchman has been out of work since he was fired by Inter Milan in November. He lasted just 84 days at the San Siro, where he managed to win just five of 14 games. Inter Milan is Inter Milan, though, and that’s something worth remembering when critiquing Palace’s impending appointment of De Boer.

Palace are also widely expected to back De Boer in the transfer market this summer, in a big way. Kelechi Iheanacho is the biggest name linked with a move to Selhurst Park, as the 20-year-old Nigerian striker is reportedly unwanted by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.

5th-place San Jose parts ways with Kinnear after 2.5 seasons

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Dominic Kinnear is out after two and a half seasons as head coach of the San Jose Earthquakes, despite leading the club to a hugely improved standing 17 games into the 2017 season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The move comes 17 hours after San Jose put to bed a three-game winless skid with a 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake on Saturday, a result which propelled them into fifth place in the Western Conference, just two points off second place. After seventh- and ninth-place finishes in Kinnear’s first two seasons back in Northern California (he managed the club in 2004 and 2005 before the club was relocated to Houston, where he would remain for nine seasons, through the 2014 season), this year’s team seemed to be moving in a positive direction quicker than most had previously expected.

[ MORE: Accam scores a backheel (video) | Opara scores a CB bicycle ]

The club has named Chris Leitch head coach and Alex Covelo as assistant coach. Current assistant coach Steve Ralston and goalkeeper coach Tim Hanley will remain in their current roles.

“First and foremost, we would like to thank Dominic for his hard work, professionalism and contributions to this club over the years,” Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli said in a release. “He worked hard this year and was a first-class person all the way. This decision was made after a lot of thought and evaluation. We decided that we wanted to go in a different direction as we continue to build the identity of this club.”

Kinnear is the second MLS coach to be relieved of his duties this season, suffering the same fate as RSL’s Jeff Cassar, who lasted just three games before being fired in March.

FIFA’s video-review system under scrutiny again in Russia

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OCHI, Russia (AP) FIFA’s new video review system is bringing turmoil to the Confederations Cup, with technology designed to deliver quick, clear decisions agitating players and leaving coaches and fans confused.

Perhaps even worse for FIFA, the latest controversy on Sunday – exactly one week after four goal reviews in that day’s two matches – made one of the world’s highest-rated referees look hesitant and wrong.

Wilmar Roldan sent off a Cameroon defender more than three minutes after a high tackle on a German opponent and only after his own case of mistaken identity.

The Colombian official arrived at what was arguably the correct decision following two visits to the touchline to consult video replays and first showing only a yellow card, then a red card, to the wrong Cameroon player.

“I think everyone is confused, including me,” Cameroon coach Hugo Broos said of referee Roldan after a 3-1 loss in Sochi that eliminated his team. “He and he alone can explain what happened there in that moment.”

Cameroon was also involved in two video decisions last Sunday, when possible Chile goals were reviewed for offside rulings. The first goal was disallowed, the second counted in Chile’s 2-0 victory.

Portugal had most to complain about one week ago when a potential opening goal in a 2-2 draw with Mexico was ruled out by an offside judged in an earlier phase of play.

FIFA stressed last week that all decisions proved ultimately correct, and the controversies were simply inevitable overreactions as world football gets used to a new system being put to its highest-profile tests.

Indeed, FIFA President Gianni Infantino felt confident to proclaim video review was “the future of football” and still on track to be approved by the guardians of the game’s laws before the 2018 World Cup.

Human error by Roldan seemed the biggest problem Sunday though it added to the perception that video review is capable of causing as much controversy as it solves.

FIFA has certainly pulled back from its prediction last year that game-changing decisions – goals scored, penalty kicks awarded, red cards, mistaken identity – could be reviewed and resolved in as few as six seconds.

Accuracy is more important than speed, has become the mantra in Russia.

Neither were in evidence Sunday in Sochi as Cameroon defender Ernest Mabouka eventually left the field around three minutes after his boot connected with Emre Can of Germany.

Mabouka’s teammate Sebastien Siani had sarcastically applauded the referee when he was wrongly sent from the field. Eventually Siani’s slate was wiped clean and he completed the match.

Still, the image of a top referee being openly disrespected will not please FIFA.

Roldan arrived at the Confederations Cup trying to rebuild a reputation that was damaged at the 2014 World Cup. There, he was chosen for the second game of the tournament, and incorrectly ruled out two Mexico goals. FIFA did not pick him for another refereeing duty in Brazil.

To further damage Roldan’s standing, Germany coach Joachim Loew said neither he nor Can believed the tackle merited even a yellow card.

“I didn’t have the impression that it was a mean foul with the intent to hurt the opponent. It was not intentional,” Loew said through a translator at the post-match news conference.

Loew, whose Germany team will defend its World Cup title next year, still thinks video review can benefit the game – with one condition.

“I think it can be fine-tuned over time so that decisions can be made more quickly,” the German coach said. “That would be great.”

Mario Balotelli signs new Nice contract

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Italian striker Mario Balotelli has found himself the owner of a new contract after a successful season in Ligue 1 with French club OGC Nice.

Balotelli’s one-year deal was set to expire at the end of June, but he found a career revival in what many believed would be his last chance in major European soccer. The club officially announced his new contract on Sunday, and while they did not release the length of the deal, they confirmed that Balotelli turned down deals from other clubs to stay in France.

The 26-year-old scored 15 goals in 23 league appearances last year, helping Nice to a fabulous third-place finish in Ligue 1, earning them a Champions League playoff spot.

For a player who saw trouble follow him wherever he went, the only trouble he faced last season at Nice was an erratic bout with injury issues including calf and adductor problems. However, the spells on the sidelines didn’t douse Balotelli’s form. The Italian had an incredible start and finish to the season, scoring six goals in his first five appearances of the season and bagging six goals in the last eight games of the year.

The official release by Nice said that Balotelli made “considerable financial sacrifices and chose the sporting aspect with his heart” in re-signing with the French club.