RECIFE, Brazil — No phone calls, no texts. For United States coach Juergen Klinsmann and his Germany counterpart Joachim Loew, their friendship is on hold until after the World Cup.
With their two teams meeting in a decisive Group G clash in Recife Thursday at noon, there is no room for small talk between Klinsmann and his former apprentice.
Klinsmann was Germany’s coach with Loew his assistant when they reached the World Cup semifinals on home soil in 2006. Now the former German striker is trying to help his current United States squad into the knockout stages.
“We are very close friends,” Klinsmann told a news conference on Wednesday. “We think alike and come from the same region and we have always been in contact. But coming into this World Cup, everyone is doing the best he can do, so we leave the phone calls and text messages for a few days to get the job done.
“Hopefully when this World Cup is over we will get back on the phone and talk about it ... It is more than a working relationship, it is a very close friendship, and I have a lot of admiration for what he has done.”
Germany is at the top of the group with four points, ahead of the U.S. on goal differential.
Both teams only need a draw to reach the last 16, but are seeking a victory that would allow them to top the group and avoid a likely clash with dark horse Belgium.
Germany put down an early marker with a 4-0 win over Portugal in its opening game, but a surprise draw with Ghana in its next outing has given the U.S. cause for optimism.
“We are by no means the underdog here at this tournament but we know this is the biggest hurdle that we have to take and we are looking forward to it,” said Klinsmann, who scored 47 goals in 108 internationals and played in three World Cups.
“If we give everything we have and go that extra mile with positive determination, we will get a result. We are very capable of beating Germany, and we know that, without being too overconfident or positive.
“This World Cup is full of surprises and we want to be one of those surprises.”
The U.S. team has traveled the most, having played its previous two group games in Natal and Manaus. The U.S. also comes into the match having had less rest than its opponents after Germany played Ghana 26 hours before the U.S. faced Portugal.
This is unlikely to be a factor, however, according to midfielder Kyle Beckerman.
“It is not really bothering us now,” Beckerman said.
“This is the biggest game of our lives and any fatigue in our legs will be erased. We have done the proper stuff to recover the legs and don’t see the short rest as being a problem at all.”
France 0, Ecuador 0: France took top the spot in Group E while 10-man Ecuador was eliminated after a scoreless tie.
Switzerland, which beat Honduras 3-0, took the second spot and will play Argentina in the last 16 while the French will face Nigeria.
Ecuador had to play most of the second half with 10 men after Antonio Valencia’s dismissal in the 50th minute.
Switzerland 3, Honduras 0: Switzerland powered into the knockout stages as Group E runners-up and will play Argentina for a quarterfinal berth after a Xherdan Shaqiri hat trick.
Honduras finished at the bottom of the group with three defeats in as many games.
Argentina 3, Nigeria 2: Lionel Messi scored twice to inspire Argentina past Nigeria to clinch the top spot in Group F. The few Nigerian fans in the crowd also left happy because their team advanced to the knockout phase thanks to Bosnia’s 3-1 win over Iran.
Bosnia 3, Iran 1: In Group F, Bosnia recorded its first World Cup win and denied the West Asians any chance of reaching the knockout stage.
Already eliminated after two losses, Bosnia, appearing at a major tournament for the first time as an independent nation, went ahead in the 23rd minute on a goal by Edin Dzeko. Bosnia doubled its lead just before the 60-minute mark on Miralem Pjanic’s goal.
Suarez readies defense
Luis Suarez’s lawyer believes there is a European campaign against the controversial striker, who on Wednesday was preparing his defense after being accused of biting an Italy defender during Uruguay’s 1-0 win at the World Cup on Tuesday.
“We don’t have any doubts that this has happened because it’s Suarez and secondly because Italy was eliminated,” said Uruguay FA board member Alejandro Balbi, who is also Suarez’s lawyer.
“There’s a lot of pressure from England and Italy,” Balbi told local Uruguayan radio. “We’re polishing off a defense argument.”
Soccer’s world governing body is investigating the incident during the Group D match in Natal, which has made headlines around the world. Uruguay’s win took them to the last 16, where they will face Colombia on Saturday.
The triumph was marred by Suarez, twice previously banned for biting, who sank his teeth into Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder, sparking outrage and calls for a tournament-long ban.
But Uruguay FA boss Wilmar Valdez told local media the proof against Suarez is not “convincing.”
“We’ve prepared another video of the game in which we discovered there was other behavior similar to Suarez’s in the game, which did not generate a similar reaction from the press,” Valdez told El Observador.
Uruguayan media has accused other countries of launching a “manhunt” against Suarez, and has singled out the British press as being particularly aggressive.
“There is a possibility that they ban him, because there are precedents, but we’re convinced that it was an absolutely casual play, because if Chiellini can show a scratch on one shoulder, Suarez can show a bruised and almost shut eye,” Balbi said.
“If every player starts showing the injuries he suffers, and they open inquiries for them, everything will be way too complicated in the future. We’re going to use all the arguments possible so that Luis gets out in the best possible way.”
His argument echoes the sentiment in much of Uruguay, which is jubilant at the team’s last-gasp victory and largely backs their key player.
The Liverpool forward’s lethal finishing is far more important than his straying teeth, say many in the small, sleepy agricultural country vying for a third World Cup triumph.
Balbi hinted at a broader conspiracy to sideline Uruguay, who lost to Costa Rica in its opening match without Suarez as he battled to complete his recovery from knee surgery.
“You shouldn’t forget that we’re rivals of many and we can be for the organizer (hosts Brazil) in the future. This does not go against what might have happened, but there’s no doubt that Suarez is a rock in the shoe for many,” Balbi added.