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

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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: 

——–Neur——–

Boateng—Mertesacker—Hummels—Howedes

Kroos—Lahm—Khedira

Ozil—Muller—Gotze

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.

Sweden announces Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not return for World Cup

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s public flirtation and seeming committal to returning to the Swedish national team for the World Cup was a big tease.

Whether it’s his call or not is up for debate.

The Swedish Football Association reports that it’s spoken with Ibrahimovic and the 35-year-old LA Galaxy striker has declined the chance to return to the fold.

[ MORE: Fulham, NFL owner to buy Wembley? ]

Sweden’s sporting director Lars Richt says Ibrahimovic has not changed his mind on international retirement despite his own words.

Sweden’s current team may have a role in that.

We imagine Richt and Sweden may be cushioning the blow for Ibrahimovic, especially if national team goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson is speaking on behalf of a team vibe when he speaks of Zlatan being “an individualist” who could ruin Sweden’s team-first concept.

Report: Fulham, NFL owner Khan agrees $700m price for Wembley

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Fulham owner Shad Khan also owns a National Football League team, and could have two top-flight teams from different nations playing in England soon.

For Fulham, the Cottagers are currently very much in the race for automatic promotion to the Premier League and at the least will have a chance at qualifying through the playoffs.

[ MORE: TFC loses CCL Final in PKs ]

For the Jaguars, who have rarely needed all the seats in their stadium, it could mean a move to London if Khan goes through with what’s being reported as an accepted $700 million bid to buy Wembley Stadium.

Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium was also built with the design to host NFL games.

Here’s how ProFootballTalk’s Michael David Smith puts a bow on it (on one of the biggest days of the NFL calendar, nonetheless):

So it’s possible that there could soon be two iconic soccer stadiums in London with strong NFL ties, one which was built with NFL games in mind, and another that is owned by an NFL owner. The league is pouring serious resources into London.

It seems unlikely Khan would move Fulham from Craven Cottage, but there are other repercussions of this move for soccer in England.

There’s the potential for the England national team to no longer utlizie a permanent home, and the FA Cup and League Cup both potentially requiring new or rotating venues for their final rounds.

A lot to monitor here, and we’ll surely have all the details as they emerge from Khan’s crew.

TFC on CCL loss: “Feels the heart has been ripped from the chest”

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Michael Bradley went 90 minutes at center back, Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco scored, and Toronto FC nearly, oh-so-nearly, became the first Major League Soccer side to win a continental title in the CONCACAF Champions League era.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

“We wanted to be the first (MLS side) to lift the CONCACAF Champions League trophy,” said goalkeeper Alex Bono, according to MLSSoccer.com. “We failed in that goal; that’s massively disappointing. … This is the way the game goes, it’s unjust; it feels the heart has been ripped from the chest sometimes.”

Bono made some big saves in regulation as TFC flipped its 2-1 first leg loss on its ear over 90 minutes, but Chivas Guadalajara scored all four of their penalty kick attempts as Jonathan Osorio hit the bar and Bradley set his effort on a path to the moon.

That part was possibly academic, as Chivas could’ve sealed it with their fifth penalty, but Marky Delgado’s miss of a perfect Sebastian Giovinco stoppage time cross is what sent the match into kicks.

Here’s how The Toronto Sun’s Kurt Larson framed his post-match interview with Delgado, described as one of the few players not to walk past the media after the loss:

“That’s football sometimes,” Delgado searched for words. “Sometimes you win. Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes it goes in. Sometimes it doesn’t. It’s heartbreaking.”

It felt cruel to keep him standing there any longer.

“Wherever we are, we want to win,” the soft-spoken American said. “Unfortunately today we didn’t, but we know we dominated the game.”

And Bradley, in the season after Toronto won a trouble but also 18 months removed from missing a PK in the MLS Cup Final — not to mention marshaling the USMNT midfield in its monumental failure to qualify for the World Cup was mostly good in playing out-of-position.

“In the biggest moments, we threw caution to the wind and played with balls, bravery, and pride in ourselves, in each other, in our club and our city,” Bradley said on Canadian television outlet TSN.

They did, and now they must hope to win the Canadian Championship, MLS Supporters’ Shield, or MLS Cup to get another shot at qualifying for the Club World Cup.

Toronto loses CONCACAF Champions League in PKs

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Chivas Guadalajara scored on all of its penalty kicks to clinch a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League Final, breaking the hearts of Toronto FC in Mexico on Wednesday and earning a berth in the 2018 Club World Cup.

Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore scored in regulation as Toronto FC picked up a 2-1 win to reverse their first leg loss and push it to kicks.

Orbelin Pineda scored Chivas’ goal.

Hometown kid Jonathan Osorio hit the cross bar on Toronto’s second PK and Michael Bradley sent the fifth offering into outer space.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

Toronto flew out of the gates, and Rodolfo Cota came flying off his line to deny Altidore a 10th minute chance.

Alex Bono collected a header off a Chivas corner kick earned by a counterattack.

Pineda then made Toronto’s task even harder with a 19th minute goal, cooking Auro’s mark to reach a through ball and dancing around Bono for 1-0.

But Altidore was somehow unmarked for Nic Hasler’s pass despite five Chivas defenders and Cota inside the six-yard box, and TFC leveled the second leg at 1.

And TFC got the next goal through Giovinco, slipped through by Marky Delgado and taking advantage of a yard of space and a second to shoot with his fourth goal of the CCL knockout rounds.

The Reds kept coming in the second half, with Delgado winning a big 50-50 ball deep in Chivas territory and Victor Vasquez ripping a shot that Cota dove to smother.

Chivas found its footing in 58th minute, sending a shot over the bar before Jesus Godinez hit the post in the 61st (though his dive seemingly had the near post covered). Bono the next knocked a free kick over the bar from a similar position as the ball that beat him in the first leg.

Javier Lopez curled a vicious attempt just over the goal in the 72nd. He’d have the next best chances moments after Altidore subbed off with an apparent hamstring injury, but dribbled onto Bono’s lap and fired off the keeper.

Giovinco worked a 1-2 with Osorio and cruised a shot just wide of the far post in the 87th minute. Delgado then mailed a sitter over the bar in the first minute of stoppage time.