Thursday is the final match day in Group G, and none of the teams in the Group of Death are 100% through or 100% nor are they knocked out. Germany also belongs to this group, though their position is the least precarious, as they would need a colossal collapse against the USA and either Ghana or Portugal would need an epic and high scoring victory. Neither one of these scenarios is likely to happen, with the least likely being that “Die Mannschaft” will fall to pieces.
Though the USA will pose a stiffer challenge than some may have suspected, Joachim Löw’s squad have more than enough quality to at least get the crucial point needed (for both teams) to move on. For those fearing a scandalous match like the one seen in Gijon in 1982, where Austria and Germany played out a horrible draw to see both sides through, don’t worry. That’s in neither in Löw’s nor in Klinsmann’s mentalities.
So what must Löw do after a Ghana match in which Germany did show some weaknesses? For starters, many (including myself) are calling for Lahm to be moved back to right back where he’s the world’s best. He just hasn’t looked as comfortable in central midfield as he has for Bayern this past season. But Jogi isn’t likely to do that, even if Boateng doesn’t play. Instead, if Boateng is fit, he’ll start there. If not, Höwedes would be the next best fit. He certainly isn’t performing well out of position on the left, but would be more at home in a position that he has played for Schalke in the Bundesliga (though he’s still a learned center back and best suited for that role). Hummels and Mertesacker are set and are a world class pairing so far.
A great change would be to put Erik Durm at left back, where he starred for Dortmund this season. His pace, attacking prowess and excellent defensive positioning will not only close down the USA’s best attacking side (with Fabian Johnson), but he will also be able to exploit situations where Johnson is caught up field. This is also a reason why Löw should seriously consider starting Lukas Podolski on the left wing. He’s not only fast, but also has a better defensive work rate than Özil or Götze, thus once again closing down the most dangerous attacking wing for the USA.
Beyond that, I would hope Schweinsteiger starts for Khedira, who failed to impress against Ghana. Schweini, on the other hand, brought energy, pace and organization to a center midfield that needed it. Schweinsteiger can also help counteract the physical nature of Jones and Beckerman with high quality passing of his own. I still wouldn’t start Klose, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see him come on later in the match, especially if Germany needs a goal. The problem is that Löw doesn’t like to make many changes the a side during a tournament, though I am very confident we will see changes, with a Schweinsteiger inclusion being the most likely of those I’ve mentioned.
If Germany are given space and the USA simply sits deep then it will be a good day for Joachim Löw’s squad. If they can build up their rhythm then no team in the world can stop them. But since the USA won’t try to out play them, but maybe try to be very physical and disrupt Kroos (who is susceptible to that) it will be a tight and uncomfortable affair. Despite saying that I still can’t see a way that Germany loses this match, especially if Jones loses his cool, which certainly could happen. I think a tense 2-0 is on the cards, which could spell doom for the USA, depending on what happens elsewhere. So as a German-American myself, Gijon sounds like a good alternative.