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Jack: Muller, Pepe and Brooks grab headlines on Day 5

Kristian Jack
6/16/2014 10:08:48 PM
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Day in 100 words or less

It's an evening in a remote American town.

Monday night. Primetime. Time for dinner. Check Twitter. Wow, the US soccer team just scored a goal in the first few seconds in the World Cup! Where's the remote? Wow, they can't keep the ball. It's a long game defending, struggling to keep hold of the ball. Can they hold on? No. A deserved equalizer smashed home by the old nemesis. What now? A draw? Can they hold on? Oh, they have a corner. That guy taking it has good hair. Whoa, what a cross! Oh my...

Ghana 1 - 2 United States

- When Landon Donovan slid into the corner flag in South Africa it was a huge needle-mover in the United States. It happened in late morning Eastern time. John Brooks, who 99.9 per cent of the country had never heard of before 7:45pm Eastern time on Monday evening just moved that needle again. Yes, thousands of soccer fans in the country partied and went wild, but this was a moment that captured the non-soccer fan. Again. It was a monumental moment for US Soccer.

- Jurgen Klinsmann's men may still be eliminated at the group stage in Brazil, but they already have that crucial moment.

- It should be noted that Slovenia were the only team in South Africa to be eliminated at the group stages after winning their opening game, but if USA play anything like this against Portugal and Germany in the next 10 days, then they will be joining them.

- The Americans really struggled to keep the ball. They defended deep after Clint Dempsey's goal on 32 seconds, then lost Jozy Altidore and Matt Besler to leg injuries before the second half even started. Ghana pressed well in midfield and dominate in wide areas, but their crosses in the final third were pathetic. Not one good cross into the six yard box.



- There remains a chance that three teams can get six points in this group. If Portugal beats USA next and Germany beats Ghana, would you rule out USA narrowly beating Germany in the last games to eliminate Portugal on goal difference?

     

Germany 4 - Portugal 0

- Germany were thought to be rusty, hit by key injuries and potentially vulnerable. Forced into a back four of centre-backs, Bastian Schweinsteiger fit only for the bench and no Marco Reus. No problem.

- When a team is this tactically intelligent, it is an absolute joy to watch a team play with a "false nine." With an organized, narrow back four (made up of four centre-backs) and two excellent central midfielders in Philipp Lahm and Sami Khedira, the front four of Germany were magnificent with their movement.

- Much like against England four years ago, Germany were happy to overload in wide areas. It is one thing to overload, but it is quite another to have the skill, cohesion and understanding of movement to turn it into a strength.

- The important thing here is to watch the positioning of the opposing back four. My colleague, and proud member of the centre-backs union Jason De Vos, always says you don't want to get dragged outside the width of the 18-yard box. Not only are Germany masters at doing that, but they drag the other centre-back on the outside of it as well!

- Cast your mind back to World Cup 2010 and the last 16 game when Germany beat England 4-1. On the second goal, their buildup play led to England's back four looking like a shambles.



- False nine or no false nine, it is about movement. That is Miroslav Klose, as a striker, on the touchline. He receives the ball and sends Thomas Mueller into space and the German on the far left, Lukas Podolski, scores the goal.

- Fast forward to the opening goal of Monday's match. It is brilliant movement from Germany to create the opening that led to Joao Pereira fouling Mario Gotze in the box.

- Initially, Portugal look more than organized to deal with the threat with as many as eight players active and alert to an attack. The two centre-backs are occupied - Pepe by Gotze and on the far side Bruno Alves on Sami Khedira.

- Then, Germany creates another bit of magic on the flank and the key move is from deep as Mesut Ozil finds space, crucially, dragging Pepe further over allowing Gotze with more than enough room away from Pereira...

- That's why, on the tactical view, Portugal look like a defensive shambles with their back four, similar to England four years ago.

- The biggest story of the game came in the 36th minute when Pepe stupidly let his team down by reacting angrily to a flop by Muller. The Real Madrid man took exception to Muller's antics and his headbutt was idiotic.

- All in all, it was pretty much the worst possible day for Portugal who need to work on getting service to Cristiano Ronaldo. Expect the magician Joao Moutinho to get far more involved in their next two matches.

Iran 0 - 0 Nigeria

- The 13th game of the tournament proved to be unlucky as two very average sides played out a game that wouldn't have looked out of place in the third tier of English football.

- At least the atmosphere looked good.

- Massive missed opportunity for Nigeria who now will have to beat Bosnia-Herzegovina to get to the last 16.

Man of the Day:

Nominees:

- Philipp Lahm – He moved into midfield and was equally as brilliant for Germany than he was for Bayern Munich this past season.

- Sami Khedira – Some were worried if he would be 100 per cent as he fights back from a long-term injury, but the midfielder, alongside Lahm, was magnificent.

- Thomas Muller – Mr. Golden Boot now has as many goals at World Cups as Diego Maradona.

- John Brooks – Move over, Garth. America has a new Brooks.

- Clint Dempsey – It was a perfect start for the Americans as the Seattle man breezed into the box and ignited their World Cup campaign.

And the winner is...

Thomas Muller – His goals were brilliant, showing all of his strengths. He wanted the penalty and told Ozil so right before it and then bullied his way to the ball on the other two. At 24, he could still have two more World Cups to come.

What comes next?

- Belgium vs. Algeria (12pm et/9am pt)

- Brazil vs. Mexico (3pm et/12pm pt)

- Russia vs. Korea Republic (6pm et /3pm et)

Burning question for tomorrow:

Can Brazil find another gear in what is likely their last real competitive test before the knockout stages?

Key stat for Day 5:

We have now had 11 headed goals already at the World Cup.



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