It was Thomas Müller yet again for Germany. The 24-year-old Bayern Munich attacker gave Joachim Löw’s side the all-important matchwinner in their final group stage game against the United States in Recife on Thursday.
Müller’s long-range goal shortly after the restart put Germany through to the knockout rounds for the 15th consecutive time at the World Cup and on course to meet Algeria, a team they have yet to beat in international competitions.
Germany dominate in rainy Recife
Löw made two changes to the team that drew 2-2 with Ghana, starting Bastian Schweinsteiger instead of Sami Khedira and Lukas Podolski on the left in the place of Mario Götze. His opposite and former colleague, Jürgen Klinsmann, too made two changes, starting Brad Davis in place of Alejandro Bedoya and Omar Gonzalez at centerback in place of Geoff Cameron.
Right from the start there was no sign of attrition with both teams having only one clear intent; go for the jugular. Fortunately for Löw it was his side that took control of the game in the first half. Germany did well to find space out wide and sent in several dangerous crosses early in the game, none of which Müller was able to latch onto.
Unlike the Ghana game, Germany made sure they stayed in control of the game this time and thanks to their excellent midfield display they did just that. Philipp Lahm, Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger eventually combined for 313 passes, almost as much as the entire US team, to really dictate the play.
The US struggled to get a foothold in the game, resorting to counter attacks and quick transitions down the flanks. Jerome Boateng and Benedikt Höwedes, criticized for their performance against Ghana, were solid throughout the match and didn’t let the US’s wide players get behind them too often.
Chances were few and far between for much of the match with Germany too struggling to create chances, especially down Lukas Podolski’s left side. He was eventually replaced by Miroslav Klose at half-time. That meant Thomas Müller went out wide to the left with Klose providing a focal point in the middle.
Soon after the change Germany got their goal. Mertesacker got on the end of a cross following a corner that US goalkeeper Tim Howard was able to parry. The ball fell to Thomas Müller’s feet outside the box who picked his spot in the far corner and finished from 20 yards out. It was his ninth goal in nine World Cup games, eclipsing Maradona and leveling with past greats like Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Uwe Seeler, Roberto Baggio, Eusebio and Paolo Rossi.
It wasn’t until the final minutes that the US created their most dangerous chance but a crucial block by Philipp Lahm in the 90th minute prevent the equalizer. Overall a deserved and dominant win to see out what has largely been a positive performance in the Group of Death.
Joachim Löw: “We didn’t allow them any chances until the end. Sometimes we unfortunately missed the final pass. Bastian Schweinsteiger did his job very well today. I wanted to give Sami Khedira a rest today. Lukas Podolski struggled so I had to take him off at half-time.”
Philipp Lahm: “If someone told us that we’d win the group then we’d automatically would have taken it. We took another great step forward today and can be completely satisfied. We would have been group winners even without my last minute block but I’m a defender and I don’t like conceding goals.”
Mesut Özil: “We absolutely want to be World champions. That’s why we’re here. We’re not here to reach just the quarterfinals and then go home. We’ll see now about our next opponent but every nation now knows how strong Germany is.”
Per Mertesacker: “I think we deservedly progressed to the next round. We had a stable performance. We were proactive and able to defend high up the pitch and were able to attack all game long. It was three completely different opponents. Every game had its own character and from that we draw a lot of courage.”
Miroslav Klose: “We can have a one-for-one replacement in every position. That is extremely important. Sami didn’t play today but it functioned very well, just like it did with him in the first game.”
Thomas Müller: “We were very clearly the dominant team against a top fit American side. Now I finally got myself a nice goal and I’ll continue to do nothing more than train like a wild man. The best is yet to come from us.”
Mats Hummels: “Unlike the Ghana game, we had this game under control and were able to allow them very little room and chances.”
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