Soccerstoriesbook's Blog


THE POSSIBLE ‘ACCOMMODATION’

The USA’s draw with Portugal in the second game of Group “G” play created all sorts of intrigue because a tie between the Americans and their last first-round opponent, Germany, would see both teams into the second round at the expense of Portugal and Ghana.

The web is beyond tangled:  The U.S. is coached by Juergen Klinsmann, who as a player helped Germany win the 1990 World Cup and coached Germany to a surprise third-place finish in 2006; Klinsmann resides in Huntington Beach, Calif., with his American wife and American-reared children; the U.S. squad features five players who have American fathers and German mothers and were largely raised in Germany; four of those five play in the Bundesliga and most of those five were coaxed into a USA jersey by Klinsmann; Germany’s coach, Joachim Loew was Klinsmann’s trusted top assistant in 2006; and five current Germany players–Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski and, of course, Miroslav Klose–called Klinsmann “boss” eight years ago.

So, rather than a series of haymakers, would the U.S. and Germany come to an “arrangement” and take it easy, playing to a draw that would assure group-favorite Germany a first-place finish in Group “G” and the Americans the coveted second-place finish in the so-called “Group of Death”?

Klinsmann, immediately after the tie with Portugal, dismissed any suggestion that he’d ask a favor of his old deputy.

“There’s no such call,” Klinsmann said.  “Jogi is doing his job and I’m doing my job.  I’m going to do everything to get to the round of 16.  There’s no time to have friendship calls.  It’s about business now.”  [June 24]

Comment:  What you’ll be hearing about from now until Thursday morning, and possibly all the way into halftime in Recife, from Soccer Stories:  Anecdotes, Oddities, Lore and Amazing Feats:

“The 1982 World Cup in Spain kicked off with 24 finalists–an increase of eight from Argentina ’78–and a format in which the winners and runners-up from the eight four-team groups would move on as well as the four best third-place finishers.  Nevertheless, FIFA … failed to give the last two matches in each group the same kickoff time.  In fact, it didn’t even have the last games of each group played on the same day.

“Algeria, a Group 2 longshot, pulled off an early stunner in Gijon when it upset West Germany, 2-1, in its opener.  The Algerians lost to Austria, 2-0, in Oviedo five days later but closed out their first-round slate by beating Chile, 3-2, also in Oviedo.  That result left the North Africans tied on points with Austria and two ahead of West Germany; on goal difference, the Germans and Austrians were both +2 and the Algerians 0.  [Until 1994, a win was worth just two points, not three; a tie, the customary one.]

“The next day in Gijon, six days shy of the 20th anniversary of Algeria’s independence, West Germany and Austria met in Group 2’s last match and engaged in the biggest farce in World Cup history.

“The Germans opened the scoring in the 10th minute on a header by hulking striker Horst Hrubesch.  Knowing that a 1-0 West German win would see the two neighbors through at Algeria’s expense, the Germans and Austrians proceeded to aimlessly pass the ball around for the next 80 minutes.  Algerian supporters on hand, convinced the match was fixed, booed and whistled in disgust; some tried to invade the field to halt the game.  In the stands, a West German burned his nation’s flag.

“FIFA rejected out of hand an Algerian call to disqualify West Germany and Austria on sportsmanship grounds, and Algeria’s first World Cup adventure ended in bitter disappointment.  Final group standings (with goal differential):  West Germany 2-1-0 (+3), Austria 2-1-0 (+2), Algeria 2-1-0 (0), and Chile 0-3-0 (-5).

“West Germany later bowed to Italy, 3-1, in the final in Madrid.  Austria lost to France and tied Northern Ireland in its second-round group and was eliminated.  Algeria qualified for Mexico ’86, crashed in the first round, and didn’t make it back to the World Cup for 24 years.

“How distasteful was the game derisively called a second German-Austrian anschluss?  French coach Michel Hidalgo, anticipating a second-round meeting with the Austrians, scouted the match and didn’t take a single note.  Hidaldo later suggested that the two sides be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.”

It was all so perfect–and perfectly repugnant.  However, this time, it may become an impossibility because of the competitiveness of the two sides, starting with master (Klinsmann) and student (Loew).  Not to mention a bit more international scrutiny that didn’t exist 32 years ago.



THE HONEYMOON BEGINETH

New U.S. National Team coach Juergen Klinsmann named a 22-man roster for the August 10 friendly with Mexico at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field.  The meeting will be the first between the rivals since Mexico’s 4-2 romp over the Americans in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup final at the Rose Bowl in July.  It also will be the first friendly between the two sides in three years.  [August 4]

Comment:  Let the honeymoon begin, or as former Mexico coach Ricardo LaVolpe once said of the U.S. National Team, as quoted in Soccer Stories: Anecdotes, Oddities, Lore and Amazing Feats:  “Here, everyone is interested in baseball and American football and many people didn’t even know that a soccer match was being played today.  So it’s easy for them, because they aren’t playing under any pressure.  My mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother could play in a team like that.”

As games go, this is about as meaningless as it comes when it’s the U.S. and Mexico.  Klinsmann will have a long look at players he’s wondered about during his five years as U.S.-coach-in-waiting, and the process will continue next month, with friendlies against Costa Rica at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA, and Belgium at King Badouin Stadium in Brussels. 

It doesn’t matter if the U.S. goes down again, 4-2, in Philly.  It doesn’t matter if the U.S. performs poorly against another World Cup qualifier opponent, Costa Rica, or extends its limp record against European teams in Europe with its trip to Brussels.  And it doesn’t matter because these are friendlies and the U.S. coach is former German star Juergen Klinsmann, the biggest name ever to coach the national team.  

Klinsmann’s resume begins with a World Cup championship in 1990, and he lifted the 1996 European Championship trophy as captain.  To put Klinsmann’s credentials as a player in perspective, he scored 47 goals in 108 international  appearances;  the total number of caps earned by his 34 predecessors at the U.S. helm total 35, and it would be far fewer were it not for future NASL commissioner Phil Woosnam, who played 17 times for Wales in the early ’60s.  (The others:  Bob Millar, two, for the U.S.; Erno Schwarz, two for Hungary; Bob Kehoe, four, for the U.S.; Gordon Bradley, one, for the U.S.; Walt Chyzowych, three, for the U.S.; Bob Gansler, five, for the U.S.; and Bruce Arena, one, for the U.S.)

As a coach, while he later failed to click at his former club, Bayern Munich, what most will remember him for was his work in transforming Germany at the 2006 World Cup.  Despite being the hosts, the young Germans were expected by their own countrymen to crash early but instead played an entertaining and inspired brand of soccer in reaching the semifinals.

Beyond that, Klinsmann seems to have come out of Central Casting, had the call gone out for a foreign-born U.S. National Team coach.  Young, articulate, bright enough to negotiate his own contracts while with AS Monaco and on other stops during his highly successful 17-year playing career.  Lives in Huntington Beach, CA, with his American wife and their two very American children.  Thoroughly familiar with the current national team pool, the American mentality and the American soccer system.    

As a result, expect Klinsmann to get the kid-glove treatment for quite some time from the those covering the national team, a press corps never known for making life difficult for any previous U.S. coach–even the prickly Arena or the equally prickly Alkis Panagoulias.  To put it another way, Klinsmann’s relationship with the media will make the bucolic Bora Milutinovic era resemble the height of rancor and malevolence.