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World Cup Match Preview

German-American Storyline Permeates World Cup Clash

With so many U.S. players and coaches born and raised in Germany, Thursday's decisive World Cup match is bound to be an emotional event as well as a stirring contest. John Godfrey reports from Sao Paolo
BY John Godfrey Posted
June 24, 2014
12:22 PM
SAO PAOLO—The German-American flavor of Thursday's Group G clash between the U.S. and Die Mannschaft cannot be avoided—or understated.

Five players in the U.S. national team were either born or raised in Germany. Two others, Michael Bradley and DaMarcus Beasley, have played professionally in the German Bundesliga. Even backup central defender Omar Gonzalez has a connection to the soccer-mad country, having gone on loan to Nuremberg in 2012.

And then, of course, there's Jurgen Klinsmann. The 49-year-old native of Goppingen, West Germany, is married to an American former model, lives in Huntington Beach, Calif., and is a fascinating hybrid of the two cultures. Relentlessly sunny like so many SoCal residents, Klinsmann sprinkles his speech with American expressions—"bummer" is a favorite of his—but is also very Germanic in his focus and singlemindedness when it comes to the beautiful game.

"It's going to be emotional, no doubt about it," Klinsmann said today at the U.S. national team's training complex here. "But I'm going to enjoy it."

Klinsmann coached the German national team in 2006, leading the team to a third-place finish in that tournament. His assistant from that time, Joachim Low, is now running the German team, and players such as Bastian Schweinstager, Miroslav Klose, Phillipe Lahm, and Lukas Podolski are holdovers from the Klinsmann era.

"I will give them big hugs before the game," Klinsmann said of his personal connections with Thursday's opponent. "But then we'll leave it aside."

These days the U.S. coach is more focused on the tactics, not the friendships.

"One of the strenths of the German side, always throughout the decades now, is consistency," Klinsmann said. "They have a very strong domestic league" that "develops a whole bunch of very good players, year in, year out."

The Germans "find, always, ways to make it to the end of the tournament," the coach added, and good thing too.

"Second place or third place doesn't really mean much with the fans or the people there."

United States midfielder Jermaine Jones knows all about German fussball fans, and their high expectations. The 32-year-old Frankfurt native has played the bulk of his career in the German Bundesliga, and he made three appearances with the German national team before filing a one-time switch to represent the United States.

With strong roots in both countries, Jones expects the playing of the two national anthems to be quite emotional.

"I always say that I’m proud of both countries," Jones said. "I grew up in Germany. They give me a lot. There was my first step and I played there my first games... so I can’t say some bad stuff."

German coach "Jogi Low he give me the chance to play for Germany and Germany is one of the biggest footall countries in the world," he continued. "It’s tough to play for this country but I have my games."

Jones also has 44 games with the U.S. national team, and nobody who has watched the Americans' first two games of the 2014 World Cup will question his commitment to the team and desire to win.

"I’m still proud too when I hear the anthem from the United States," he said. "I will close my eyes and let everything go through and then after I try to make the game."

"Germany is a special game," he added. "I grow up in Germany. My mom is German, but I try to win and I try to bring America to the next round."

Two games into the 2014 World Cup, Jones is the clear MVP for the United States national team—both on the field and off. A tremendously fit athlete who plays with an edge that gives opponents pause, Jones has also emerged as one of the go-to guys for interviews. Here are some of the highlights from Jones' interaction with the press on Tuesday.

On Growing up in Germany

The whole time when I was playing and growing up I would say the people are concentrated and always focused and they know what they want to do. When you watch the football, football is at a high level there. For me, [the Bundesliga] the best league in the world. The football is really good and I think it will be a tough game but we've already shown against Portugal—everybody was talking about Cristiano Ronaldo but we showed we can play against these teams and after 20 minutes we were the better team than Portugal.

On the German Style of Play

I think they changed a little bit the style now. They have a crazy kind of bench. These guys, they play for big, big clubs. The style is maybe similar, they start to play like Spain the last two years. They’re really good. They know to hold the ball, they have good players in front, the last week you can see it—they bring from the bench [Miroslav] Klose against Ghana and he scores straightaway.

They have [Thomas] Muller, he’s a good player. You can talk a lot of this team so, what I say before, we have to be focused on this game and if not, it will be a difficult game.

On Michael Bradley's Struggles

I don’t like to talk about teammates. If you want to know... if he can play better or not, you have to ask him. He tries his best. Sometimes maybe you don’t have the best day but that happens a lot of times for me too. The point is that he have to step on, don’t think what happened. We have the chance for next game. When everybody’s 100% we can come through.

On Growing Support from U.S. Fans

It's always funny, when you go on the pitch and you make our work sometimes not the right feedback comes back. You feel a little bit like... The people talk: ‘You always kick the guys. You’re the bad boy.’ Sometimes it's crazy. But for me it was always the point I was saying, ‘OK, I have to work. I have to work. I will show the people.'

Now you play a World Cup, you play agasint the best player, and you can show your best. I think I show the people already that I can play against Cristiano, Messi—I don’t care, you know?

I want fun on the pitch and the last two games [gave me that]. I gave assist for Clint. I think first game was OK. Second game, I score, everything is good and I hope the people support [me]. Right now they give me a lot back. They tweet a lot, they text me. I see [U.S. women's national team star] Alex Morgan, the girl—she’s running around with the No. 13 too, and she tweets, ‘Jones!"

On What It Would Mean to Beat Germany

It's not the point to beat a friend or something. It’s the point to come to the next round. This is the important stuff. This is the point. We have to come to the next round. We will try everything to win this game. We don’t go in this game [thinking] maybe a draw will help us or be enough. We want to go there we want to go show the people that we can battle and we can beat the German team.

I don’t say bad stuff about Germany. I have a lot of friends [there], everything is good, and everything happens for a reason. I play for the United States, I have a lot of caps for here and I’m happy to play in this World Cup.

What do you think of the German-American flavor of the match? Will the U.S.-aligned Germans be able to stand up to their countrymates? Share your thoughts below.

John Godfrey is the founder and editor in chief of American Soccer Now.

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