Loew trumps Klinsmann

Loew trumps Klinsmann
U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann (L) and Germany's coach Joachim Loew shake hands after their 2014 World Cup Group G soccer match at the Pernambuco arena in Recife June 26, 2014.

Nerves were shredded. Emotions were stretched to breaking point. Both teams tried to keep a foot on the ball with an eye on the other game.

But the Americans hung on.

The Germans triumphed 1-0, but victory belonged to both nations.

Old friends Juergen Klinsmann and Joachim Loew did each other no favours, but were united in their celebrations nonetheless.

No one's dreams drowned in the torrential downpour.

Die Mannschaft and the Stars and Stripes were both left singing in the rain, finishing first and second in Group G.

Soaked fans arrived late at the Recife stadium after navigating roads waist-deep in flood water. Before kick-off, both teams were instructed to warm up along the pitch's perimeter to preserve the boggy playing surface.

During the German and American national anthems, Klinsmann lustily sang both songs. It's been that kind of World Cup. But rumours of a repeat of the "Disgrace of Gijon" clearly offended Teutonic sensibilities.

With Bastian Schweinsteiger called in to complement Philipp Lahm in central midfield for his first start in Brazil, Germany's intent was unmistakable.

They don't play for draws.

Loew wisely overloaded his right side, with Schweinsteiger, Jerome Boateng and Mesut Oezil all taking turns to jab away at DaMarcus Beasley.

But Lahm was a treat to behold. He didn't need the rain. He was born slippy.

Watching Lahm move effortlessly between his centre backs and central midfield can be like attending a Stephen Hawking lecture; a privilege to marvel at the smartest man in the room.

With Lahm always the forceful fulcrum, Germany's possession was assured, unhurried and purposeful; never inhibited by tentative tiki taka.

But the absence of a cutting edge should be addressed before the Round of 16.

For all of Germany's undoubted dominance, Graham Zusi came closest to scoring the opener in the 23rd minute, thumping a curling drive over the bar.

Oezil almost broke the deadlock later in the half when he drove past his marker and through the rain, dipping a shoulder and dropping a smart bomb that Tim Howard deflected to safety.

Not surprisingly, Miroslav Klose replaced a subdued Lukas Podolski at half-time and was just an elongated neck away from overtaking Brazilian Ronaldo on the scoring charts. His diving header connected, but not cleanly and the ball flew wide.

His strike partner made amends seconds later.

In the 55th minute, the Americans failed to clear a corner with Tim Howard making a three-course meal of a routine Per Mertesacker header, palming the ball down the middle of the box.

The rebound reached Thomas Mueller outside the area and he curled a superlative strike around Howard's despairing dive and inside the far post. He's level with Lionel Messi and Neymar on four.

Klose's 15 goals at World Cups dominate attention. Mueller already has nine and he's only 24.

Germany will face stiffer opposition in the knockout stages and can comfortably move through higher gears. The US are simply delighted to be still in Brazil.

In the end, even the Recife weather couldn't rain on either side's parade.

This article was first published on JUNE 27, 2014.
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