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.

Report: Mourinho to get bumper $89 million extension at Man Utd

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Jose Mourinho is in the third month of his second season in charge of Manchester United, and may join Antonio Conte as men to get a second contract early in his term.

Goal.com says Paris Saint-Germain’s interest in Mourinho will spur United chairman Ed Woodward into action.

Unlike Conte, who received improved terms and the same length at Chelsea, the report says Mourinho will get a new five-year deal.

[ MORE: Yaya Toure to NYCFC? ]

The report says Mourinho’s terms would be worth almost $89 million over the length of the deal, close to $18 million per season.

The 54-year-old has never spent more than four years at a club, his longest stay as an assistant as Barcelona. Last season, he won the Europa League and League Cup for United while finishing sixth in the Premier League.

This season, United is off to a second-place start, leading Spurs on goal differential following a first loss of the season Saturday at Huddersfield Town.

This is about money and security for Mourinho who, let’s face it, probably won’t stay at United for five seasons. It would go against his record, and it’s difficult to imagine he’ll buck his career trend and make it five years. The new deal would be a raise, keep him from PSG for now, and probably will do the trick.

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Report: Yaya Toure lined up by New York City FC

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There are few details, but a report tabbed as exclusive by The Manchester Evening News says a new midfield force could be headed to Major League Soccer.

Yaya Toure’s resurgent 2016-17 has not been followed by a busy 2017-18, at least not yet, as the report says Yaya is set to head to New York City FC following the departure of Andrea Pirlo.

[ MORE: Koeman fired | Who’s in line? ]

Toure, who turns 35 in May, has regularly been on the subs bench for Pep Guardiola this season after signing a one-year contract. He’s played 29 minutes as a sub over the last two Premier League matches, and his lone start came in a League Cup win over West Brom, where he captained City.

Toure has 59 goals and 33 assists in 222 Premier League matches.

The Ivorian is not a pace monger, but neither were Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard and both were effective when healthy in MLS. Toure’s powerful presence in the midfield could be worth the wage packet and headache, but we’d pay a penny for Patrick Vieira’s thoughts.

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Italy’s once-vaunted ‘BBC’ defense is showing its age

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ROME (AP) With a combined age of 99, Italy’s once vaunted “BBC” defensive trio is showing its years.

The Azzurri will still rely on Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini in a World Cup playoff against Sweden next month but the signs in Serie A lately have not been encouraging.

[ MORE: Koeman fired | Who’s in line? ]

Bonucci’s red card with AC Milan over the weekend was the latest in a series of poor performances after his high-profile transfer from Juventus made him the highest-paid player in Italy.

Chiellini and Barzagli were beaten for goals twice by Ciro Immobile in Juventus’ 2-1 home loss to Lazio less than 10 days ago, and Chiellini was again off form in the Bianconeri’s 6-2 victory over Udinese on Sunday.

Chiellini was fooled by Stipe Perica for Udinese’s first goal and then left Danilo unmarked to head in another as he appealed for an offside call that never came.

Bonucci is 30, Chiellini is 33 and Barzagli is 36.

While Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura has shown interest in developing new talent, he has shown no indication that he plans to cast aside the “BBC” when it counts.

After all, Italy has historically been slow to incorporate younger players, especially defenders.

[ MORE: MLS Playoff Bracket set ]

That means the likes of Daniele Rugani (who plays for Juventus), Alessio Romagnoli (Milan) or Mattia Caldara (Atalanta) – who are all in their 20s – may have to wait for their chances with the Azzurri.

But Ventura would do well to remember how Marcello Lippi kept Fabio Cannavaro and other veterans in the lineup at the 2010 World Cup only to acknowledge after the first-round exit that he made a mistake and was overly influenced by the older players’ performance en route to the title four years earlier.

From Franco Baresi to Giuseppe Bergomi to Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta, Cannavaro and the “BBC,” strong center backs have been a source of uninterrupted pride for the Azzurri for decades.

Gianluigi Buffon in goal has also provided a security blanket for nearly 20 years but he, too, is approaching the end of his career and will likely retire after this season – or after his record sixth World Cup if Italy qualifies.

Italy’s hopes of avoiding the playoffs were dashed with a debilitating 3-0 loss in Spain last month that offered a first hint of defensive problems. The defeat ended Italy’s 11-year unbeaten run in qualifiers for World Cups and European Championships.

[ MORE: Mbappe named Golden Boy ]

The Azzurri attributed the loss to Spain on Sept. 2 to a lack of physical condition so early in the season.

Bonucci, it was figured, just needed some time to adapt to his new surroundings at Milan.

In July, Bonucci completed a surprise transfer from Juventus, where he clashed with coach Massimiliano Allegri last season and was memorably left in the tribune for a Champions League match at Porto.

The transfer fee topped 40 million euros (nearly $50 million) and Bonucci signed a five-year contract worth up to 10 million euros (nearly $12 million) per season. He was also made captain before he ever wore a Milan shirt.

When Milan started to falter a month ago, physical trainer Emanuele Marra was fired – reportedly in large part because Bonucci demanded better fitness preparation.

But Bonucci was out run by Mauro Icardi on Inter Milan’s first goal when the striker scored a hat trick in a 3-2 derby win eight days ago. He was also to blame for the second, failing to mark Icardi in the area.

Things got even worse for Bonucci when he was sent off in the first half of Milan’s 0-0 draw at home with Genoa on Sunday for elbowing a defender in the head as he jostled for position on a free kick.

[ LIGUE 1: Neymar sent off ]

Bonucci will likely be given a multiple-match ban, which would exclude him from facing Juventus next Sunday and could affect his form for the Nov. 10 and 13 playoffs.

“Leo is a champion,” Buffon said. “He’ll become decisive again. But it makes me feel calmer knowing that we won’t have to face him on Saturday.”

More AP Serie A coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/SerieA

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/asdampf

MLS Playoff bracket, dates set: Chicago, Vancouver host Tues.

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Major League Soccer’s playoff bracket is set. Our staff predictions are coming Tuesday before the first round match-ups, but here’s what we’ll be watching…

[ MORE: Mbappe named Golden Boy ]

The chase begins with Chicago and the Red Bulls, and San Jose heading to Vancouver. The Quakes drew the ‘Caps just over a week ago, on Oct. 15.

First round
(E3) Chicago vs. (E6) New York Red Bulls — 8:30 p.m. ET Tuesday
(W3) Vancouver vs. (W6) San Jose — 10:30 p.m. ET Tuesday
(E4) Atlanta vs. (E5) Columbus — 7 p.m. ET Wednesday
(W4) Houston vs. (W5) Sporting KC — 9:30 p.m. ET Wednesday

Conference semifinals
(W1) Portland vs.  San Jose, Houston, or Sporting KC
(W2) Seattle vs. Houston, Sporting KC, or Vancouver
(E1) Toronto vs. New York Red Bulls, Atlanta, or Columbus
(E2) New York City vs. Atlanta, Columbus, or Chicago

Conference finals
Eastern Conference — Nov. 21 and Nov. 28 or 29
Western Conference — Nov. 21 and Nov. 30

MLS Cup Final
At finalist with best record — 4 p.m. ET Dec. 9

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