Stacked going forward, German are No. 2 in the world for a reason.

What can USA expect from imperious Germany in World Cup showdown?


With less than 24 hours to go until the U.S. national team face Germany in Recife in their crucial Group G finale, how are you feeling?

Nervous? Excited? Fearful? If the answer is yes to any of those, it’s okay. We are all in this together.

A monumental day awaits Jurgen Klinsmann and his U.S. squad on Thursday. A draw or win against Germany will seal qualification to the Round of 16 from the so-called “Group of Death.” That would be some feat.

[PREVIEW: U.S. vs. Germany – Revenge for 2002 on the line ]

The USA are on the cusp of one of their greatest-ever achievements in the World Cup. Alongside reaching the quarterfinals in 2002, qualifying for 1990 and the success of 1930, getting out of this group would be right up there.

Only one problem… World number two and European powerhouse Germany stand in their way.

[RELATED: How will the USA line up vs. Germany? ]

Yes, the USA beat them 4-3 in a friendly at RFK Stadium last year, but this is different. That was a second-string German side. This is the World Cup and a chance to advance on the line. Germany’s ready to roll the U.S. over, (despite the fact that the head coaches are close friends and half of the U.S. team is German) so here’s a primer on what they’re all about.

A German lesson…

source: AP
The U.S. will have to stop the likes of Muller and Podolski on Thursday.

Joachim Low’s side tore Portugal apart 4-0 in their opening group game, then faltered slightly against Ghana but still managed to bag a 2-2 draw. With the Germans only needing a point to secure top spot in Group G and avoid the distinct possibility of playing Belgium in the last 16, you’d think they would be quite cautious. Nope. Despite their hefty advantage when it comes to goal difference, this German side are primed and ready to attack the core of the U.S. and keep on trucking deep into the tournament.

Mesut Ozil. Thomas Muller. Toni Kroos. Mario Gotze. Miroslav Klose. Lukas Podolski. Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Any of those players could rip the USA apart. Their depth in every position across the midfield and forward positions is frightening and the USA’s defense will have to play a near flawless game to keep their World Cup dream alive. Of course, the USA could lose to Germany and still go through (depending on if Portugal and Ghana tie or neither win by a large margin) however they simply can’t afford to get hammered.

Germany are set to line up in a classic 4-3-3 formation with many interchanging pieces in the final third. Ozil and Gotze will likely start out wide, but they drift inside while Kroos and Schweinsteiger always seem to find pockets of space. The predatory duo of Klose and Muller bury any chance they get and at the back, four man-mountains stand in Clint Dempsey and the USA’s way of scoring.

Die Mannschaft will likely lineup like this on Thursday in Recife: 





How can the USA grab the point they need?

Attack the flanks. Big time. Ghana exposed Germany’s lack of pace in the full back positions, as both Boateng and Howedes came undone against Ghanaian speedsters. Germany’s defense are great in the air but suspect on the deck, so if the USA can release Fabian Johnson and DaMarcus Beasley down the flanks, they should have plenty of joy as Per Mertesacker and Mats Hummels are still trying to untangle their feet in the center of defense.

source: Getty Images
Beckerman is key to stopping Germany’s offense from clicking into life.

That being said, Germany possess one of the youngest, meanest attacks in world soccer. Yes, Ozil hasn’t lit up this World Cup like he did at South Africa 2010 as a 21-year-old, but his supreme talent mustn’t be underestimated. This is where Kyle Beckerman’s role of clogging up space in front of the USA’s backline becomes so crucial. With Ozil and Gotze apt at ghosting into spots where they can flick and trick their way into the box in dangerous central areas, Beckerman must sit in and deny the German youngsters the chance to get on the ball and turn the U.S. defenders. If I was Klinsmann, I’d drop Jermaine Jones or Michael Bradley into the holding role alongside Beckerman to quell the threat of Germany’s ultra-potent offense that has scored six times in their opening two games.

Remember, the USA don’t need to win this match. They only need a point.

An agonizing and painstaking 90 minutes awaits for fans across the nation but if the U.S. are patient, they have a huge chance of pulling off one of the shocks of the tournament by advancing to the last 16.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.