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Weather, History Muddy The Field For U.S.-Germany Showdown

Jermaine Jones and other members of the U.S. men's national team train in Manaus, Brazil. Fitness may be a crucial factor in the U.S.-Germany game on Thursday in Recife .
Raphael Alves
AFP/Getty Images
Jermaine Jones and other members of the U.S. men's national team train in Manaus, Brazil. Fitness may be a crucial factor in the U.S.-Germany game on Thursday in Recife .

It's do or die (or tie) time for the United States today in the World Cup.

The U.S. team plays its final game in group play against world No. 2-ranked Germany at noon EDT in the Brazilian seaside city of Recife. The stakes couldn't be higher, and the intrigue is all here, folks.

Beat or tie Germany and the U.S. advances in the World Cup. If the U.S. loses, it still has a chance to move on — but the scenarios get messy, as Eyder Peralta outlined. Only two countries can advance out of the so-called Group of Death, but all four teams (Germany, United States, Portugal and Ghana) have the chance to move on today.

Tom Goldman reported for Morning Edition that fitness may be an issue:

"So how do the Americans surprise today? They'll need to prove their fitness. ... It was just four short days ago that the U.S. tied Portugal in steamy, energy-sapping Manaus. A worrisome stat for the U.S.: The four teams that played in Manaus before the U.S. and Portugal all lost their next game. Despite that, the U.S. mantra stays the same: 'We're good.' "

Another question mark is the weather. It rained most of Wednesday in Recife, and there are no signs the rain will let up.

Not only will the U.S. have to deal with a soggy field and questions about their fitness — there's also history. Germany is a three-time World Cup champion and four-time runner-up. The U.S. coach, Jürgen Klinsmann, was a star player for Germany. He was on the team that won the 1990 World Cup, and he later coached Germany to a third-place World Cup finish in 2006. His assistant at the time, Joachim Löw, is now the German coach.

Tom noted after the U.S. lost to Portugal that coach Klinsmann says he has no plans to reach a "gentlemen's agreement" with Germany and settle for a tie. Klinsmann wants one thing: a victory over his former team.

As if there weren't enough drama surrounding the U.S.-Germany match, the Portugal-Ghana game kicks off at the same time. The reason, as USA Today explains, is that organizers want to ensure none of the play is affected by teams learning results of other matches. It stems from a 1982 Germany-Austria World Cup match when both teams basically stopped playing during the game because they would both advance.

Whatever happens today, it's possible another soccer viewing record will be set. At least 24.7 million people tuned in to the U.S.-Portugal game last Sunday. It has some asking if soccer has finally "arrived" in the United States. We might get a clearer idea today if work stops, phones go unanswered and the streets clear beginning at noon.

We'll be live-blogging the U.S.-Germany game here at The Two-Way.

You can watch coverage on ESPN starting at 11 a.m. ET. Univision is also streaming the games live on its website.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As NPR's Southern Bureau chief, Russell Lewis covers issues and people of the Southeast for NPR — from Florida to Virginia to Texas, including West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. His work brings context and dimension to issues ranging from immigration, transportation, and oil and gas drilling for NPR listeners across the nation and around the world.
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