Brian Blickenstaff

Brian Blickenstaff lives in Heidelberg, Germany. He tweets at @BKBlick.

What the German press is saying before the big game

Germany and the U.S. are tied on points heading into a decisive Group G showdown. Over the past couple days in Germany, the “US-Boys,” their style of play, and where it came from have taken on a relevance not usually seen in the German press. But the pre-match headlines aren’t all tactical previews and pats on the back for exporting Germany’s brand of football; they’re also full of trash talk and worry about whether we’ll see a repeat of the Schande von Gijón, too.

Here are the German media’s talking points going into Thursday’s match.

Another Schande von Gijón?

This is the big story: Will Germany play for a tie? The papers are thick with Klinsmann quotes about how his team will to play to win, not draw. Kicker, Germany’s influential sports magazine, ran statements Klinsmann made to the SID news agency earlier this week in which he denied that the United States would play for a draw. SPOX.com, one of Germany’s top sports websites, ran an interview with Benedikt Höwedes, in which the German defender said the same: “We’re definitely not going to try to play for a draw.” Thomas Müller made similar comments. And what about Germany’s coach? “There is no pact,” Löw told the gathered press earlier this week. “When you play for a draw from the start, it usually goes bad.”

Emotional match for US players and coach

Germany’s papers and magazines are awash instories about Klinsmann: profiles, questions about his relationship with his hometown in Stuttgart, stories about his longtime friendship with Germany coach Löw. The most interesting of these comes from Die Zeit, a highbrow weekly, the thesis of which is that Klinsmann has a chance to show Germany what it’s missing: namely, how to get a team to play with passion and energy.

Der Tagesspiegel, a Berlin broadsheet, ran a story earlier this week about the German influence on the American team, and how, in a way, when Germany plays the United States, “It also plays against itself.” Strangely, the idea that Germany will be playing a kind of bizarro version of itself was slower to capture the media attention here than it was in the United States. This story, however, gives Germany a little more credit for the U.S.’s success than it deserves, and doesn’t speak to the team’s American influence at all.

General trash talk

BILD, a low-brow German tabloid, has the biggest newspaper readership in Europe. It also excels at trash talk. In addition to the cover from Today’s paper, which shows a bloodied and bruised Klinsmann caricature and reads, “Klinsmann sees stars,” BILD ran a list of the top 5 things Americans did better than Germans. That list included “wiretapping,” “Being fat,” and “running up debts.” Ouch.



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Tactical worry: What to do with Lahm and Schweinsteiger?

The debate about whether Löw should play Lahm as a midfielder or a right back—a debate that has raged in Germany since last fall, when Pep Guardiola first moved Lahm into the Bayern midfield—continues today. Although nobody seems quite happy with Lahm’s contribution in Germany’s midfield, Kicker has taken perhaps the strongest stance against using Lahm in the midfield. Should Schweinsteiger play there from the start? Lahm, like Michael Bradley, has come under criticism after a less than spectacular showing against Ghana. Löw said Lahm will be in the midfield against the USA, and that he won’t bow to media criticism.

Team USA Analysis

SPOX.com published a great breakdown of Team USA’s strengths and weaknesses, noting how compact and organized the U.S. is through the middle, and how Klinsmann has the team playing with, “dynamism, power, discipline and high intensity.” However, the story also notes that the U.S. has a tendency to sit deep when not in possession, and that the team is spotty in its coverage of the flanks when the fullbacks push forward into the attack. Look for the German team to exploit the space behind Fabian Johnson.

Predictions?

BILD asked seven fans to predict the score, and all of them called it for Germany. The Frankfurter Allgemeinene newspaper’s more scientific approach predicts a 55.3% chance that Germany will win.

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