Fresh from a stunning victory over the Netherlands, the United States men’s soccer team will face an even greatest test against world champions Germany in Cologne. After going 3-1 down to the third-place team from last year’s World Cup, the U.S. produced one of its most impressive and certainly most entertaining friendly results of Jürgen Klinsmann’s tenure to triumph 4-3 in Amsterdam.
For Klinsmann, and several of the U.S. dual-nationals, the outcome was particularly pleasing against Germany’s fierce rivals. And, for different reasons, Wednesday is set to be another encounter charged with added emotion. Klinsmann, though, who coached Germany to the semifinals of the 2006 World Cup, is focused on seeing his current team test themselves against the world’s best.
“I hope that what we are capable of is becoming consistent,” he told the U.S. Soccer website. “We surprised quite a lot of people with that result in Holland, but now it’s actually on us to take the same energy, the same approach, the same discipline and tempo against the world champions.
“We’re hoping that over time it becomes a lifestyle that we always expect the best from ourselves in training and in the game, and there’s nothing bigger than a game against the world champions. It’s going to be the highest benchmark that we’ve experienced so far.”
This will not be the first time that Klinsmann has taken on his home nation, with the U.S. having been one of Germany’s victims in Brazil last summer. In the final match of the World Cup group phase, the Americans went down 1-0 thanks to Thomas Müller’s goal, although both teams would go onto the Round of 16.
Germany went all the way to defeat Argentina in the final and win its first World Cup in 24 years, but things have not been all plain sailing since then. A defeat to Poland and home draw with the Republic of Ireland means Joachim Löw’s team still sit second in its Euro 2016 qualifying group, locked in a four-team battle for the two automatic places in France next year.
Still, Germany’s situation should look healthier after its next qualifier against minnows Gibraltar, which comes three days after taking on the U.S. And, having gone three months since the team’s last match, Löw is eager to use the friendly to get back into a groove.
“We’re glad we’re playing a testing opponent before the Gibraltar game, as USA have come on really well in past years,” he said, according to the DFB (German football association) website. “We have to get up and running again, something which isn’t too easy as being in June, the fixture isn’t the best for us. We have to deal with the situation and raise our concentration and integrity, and we’ll do just that.”
Yet Germany’s squad for both matches will be missing several key members of the World Cup winning team. Bayern Munich pair Manuel Neuer and Thomas Müller as well as Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos have been left out by Löw after grueling seasons, while Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels has pulled out through injury. Meanwhile, Hummels’ regular center-back partner Jerome Boateng won’t join up with the team until after the U.S. friendly.
Prediction: Germany is set to field an unfamiliar lineup, with Löw planning to hand some fringe players a chance as well as make plenty of changes during the game. That will give a U.S. side that has a much more immediate focus, in the shape of next month’s Concacaf Gold Cup, another opportunity to claim a morale-boosting result at the home of a European heavyweight. But the U.S. defense will be lucky to escape if it makes the same defensive errors as against the Netherlands, and Germany should have the quality to emerge with a win on home soil.
Predicted score: Germany 2-1 USA
Kickoff time: 2:45 p.m. EDT
TV channel: Fox Sports 1, UniMas