The penultimate World Cup 2014 group finale is upon us, and it promises to be the most fascinating yet with all four teams in the mix, all four teams playing good football and all the group’s matches so far having been memorable in some way. In Recife, the United States (2nd) play group leaders Germany. There’s potential intrigue there aplenty: the US are managed by German legend Jurgen Klinsmann and five of their players were born in Germany. US midfielder Jermaine Jones has already stated that he will be singing both anthems, something which you can only imagine would give The Daily Mail a heart attack if it were a German-born England player.

A draw will do for both teams to qualify, but one suspects it’s unlikely to be so clear cut, especially with none of the teams in the group yet guaranteed a second round berth. Both the United States and Germany could also still make it to the knockout phases if they lose today, but that is most likely to rely on Portugal – who have a significantly worse goal difference – narrowly beating Ghana in the game taking place in Brasilia. Portugal’s only real hope is to beat Ghana heavily and hope that Germany comfortably see off the USA. Germany, with a healthy +4 goal difference – three better than anyone else in the group – are very much in pole position but one suspects playing for a draw would be too much of a high-risk strategy for Der Mannschaft to take.

Miroslav Klose may well have a part to play in any of these scenarios. The German striker goes into this game needing one more goal to become the all-time top goalscorer in World Cup Finals history.

Ghana, too, are relying on a German victory to keep their qualification hopes alive. But the Black Stars only require a three-goal swing in the goal difference to prevail, as opposed to the six-goal swing required by their opposition. With this is mind, it’s likely to be a game played with some intensity. It’s also enlivened by the behind-the-scenes shenanigans in the Ghana camp: the Ghanaian FA have just had to fly out a charter plane containing $3 million in appearance payments for the squad who had otherwise threatened to go on strike. They have also suspended and sent home two of their finest  players, Sulley Muntari and Kevin Prince-Boateng, for physical and verbal indiscipline respectively. It’s hardly the ideal preparation for a team who have never yet failed to make the knockout phases at a World Cup Finals.

Join us just before five to see how this one plays out. It could (we hope) be a thrilling afternoon of football. I’m feeling optimistic, so I’m even going to include the group table. I think we might need it at some stage.

1. Germany P 2 W 1 D 1 L 0 F 6 A 2 Pts 4 GD +4

2. United States P 2 W 1 D 1 L 0 F 4 A 3 Pts 4 GD +1

3. Ghana P 2 W 0 D 1 L 1 F 3 A 4 Pts 1 GD -1

4. Portugal P 2 W 0 D 1 L 1 F 2 A 6 Pts 1 GD -4

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Mark June 26, 20147:12 pm

Hansen: “I haven’t come all the way out here to see the Brazilians go out in the last 16.” No, you’ve gone out there to provide UNBIASED analysis to help viewers acquire a greater understanding of what they are watching than would otherwise be the case. FAIL on both counts this coming Saturday, it would seem.
Oh, and I notice that the Beeb have put the theme to “Whatever happened to the Likely Lads?” (“the only thing to look forward to…the past”) over footage of England getting knocked out. Wonder where they got that idea from?

Mark June 26, 20146:57 pm

Its 2-1 in Brasilia. Ghana out as the bottom team with one point but in more style than certain teams in white I could mention. Such as England. “But its a win for Portugal and a goal for Ronaldo” says Lineker, as if ANYone gives a Shi’ite. He eventually congratulates Brad Friedel on America’s qualification. But a goal for Ronaldo, eh?

Ted June 26, 20146:53 pm

FULL TIME: Germany 1-0 United States. The right result on the day and the right result for the group, both sides are through.

Ted June 26, 20146:52 pm

USA have their best attacks of the game right at the death. Lahm excellently blocks the first and then Clint Dempsey heads over from the ensuing floater.

Mark June 26, 20146:51 pm

Portuguese keeper Beto has been substituted with a hip injury but is bawling his eyes out on the bench for more than that. Portugal are on the way out. And while that’s good enough for CR7, Beto has my sympathy. Ronaldo gets both his names on the BBC scoresheet caption. Why???

Ted June 26, 20146:42 pm

The USA’s substitute full-back Yedlin scampers down the wing and delivers a centre the like of which I’ve not seen since Peter Smith used to terrorise the occupants of the North Stand at the Goldstone Ground.

Mark June 26, 20146:42 pm

Duada made a bit of a mess of two clearances. His first seemed to get caught in the wind and blow back in his direction, the second he flapped away like an angry child. CR7 drilled it in left-footed. Portugal are still three goals short, though. And Messi’s still got three more than CR7, which might be playing on the preening prcik’s mind a bit more. Possibly. Perhaps.

Ted June 26, 20146:41 pm

The USA, now free to lose by three goals again, celebrate by letting Germany have the ball a bit more. A step up from 95% to 97-98%.

Ted June 26, 20146:39 pm

That’s just him all over though, isn’t it? He’s the epitome of the Corinthian ideal of sportsmanship.

Mark June 26, 20146:38 pm

Go USA. CR7 scores a semi-comical goal for Portugal. Doesn’t celebrate

Ted June 26, 20146:36 pm

It was previously the sole preserve of Gary Cahill, that role.

Rob June 26, 20146:35 pm

I’m claiming the copyright on “False Five” for the position that Neuer is currently occupying.

Mark June 26, 20146:34 pm

CR7 shove over in the box. NO penalty AND he injures his knee. The other knee. Andre Ayew, meanwhile, is what Ray Wilkins used to call “doing his pieces” at regular intervals. He’s ready to blow.

Ted June 26, 20146:33 pm

Manuel Neuer in the German goal has been so untroubled in the second half so far that he’s moved beyond a sweeper-keeper and is now playing as a centre half-keeper. Meanwhile, the US players, who are falling to pieces and a collection of assorted black eyes, scars and broken bones, have started to collide with one another. Jermaine Jones looks like he’s the latest graduate from the Steve Bruce finishing school.

Mark June 26, 20146:29 pm

Ted. Yep.
BTW: Just a quick reminder, in case it is necessary in the face of any up-coming patronising of qualified Americans, “soccer” is an ENGLISH term, dating back to the 1880s, days when “football” in England was rugby.

Ted June 26, 20146:25 pm

If Ghana won 2-1 and United States LOST 2-1, I believe the USA would advance due to the fact their head-to-head record with Ghana is superior.

This is all very confusing, They should just have a fight.

Ted June 26, 20146:21 pm

Ghana, as Mark correctly point out, would move up to second if they found another goal on goals scored.

Ted June 26, 20146:21 pm

The USA could yet need to get a point, or at least a goal, out of this match. This is a problem for them at the moment, they’ve not had the ball since the half kicked off.

Mark June 26, 20146:20 pm

If its 2-1 to Ghana and 1-0 to Germany, it would be Ghana on goals scored? Is that right?

Ted June 26, 20146:19 pm

Germany lead 1-0 in damp Recife thanks to Thomas “Gerd” Muller and Germany seem fairly determined to get more: at the very least they will be looking to get Klose the record.

Mark June 26, 20146:15 pm

1-1 Ghana. ASamoah Gyan heads home an fine Asamoah cross, to make the Americans feel better about conceding that great Muller goal. Its still “Go USA” ian, don’t worry.

Mark June 26, 20146:12 pm

Lawrenson: “Honduras, just a pub team.” I’m sure even England would have put them to the sword..,ah…etc…

Mark June 26, 20146:07 pm

Is it my crap PC or is the game in Brasilia 85 seconds ahead?

Mark June 26, 20146:05 pm

Every time Miroslav Klose is mentioned, “Music, music, music” enters my head (you know the song, “put another nickel in,” “closer, my dear come closer”). Hope its now in your head…ha! Klose’s come on. Altogether now…”Put another nickel in, in the nickelodeon…”
Blimey, didn’t know I HAD that many coats…

Ted June 26, 20145:56 pm

as the BBC show a package of the best goals of the tournament so far, I should state that my personal favourite was the goalkeeper’s own goal for Honduras that made Jonathan Pearce get all confused.

Ted June 26, 20145:51 pm

it’s Gijon mustard

Ian June 26, 20145:47 pm

Well, I only caught the last twenty minutes of it but I thought the USA shaded that spell. Both teams a little cautious – understandably – there’s been no hint that there is any hint of Gijon 1982 about this.

Mark June 26, 20145:47 pm

John Boye nearly does it again. Left-foot this time after he scored with his right. 1-0 at half-time. Plenty going on but probably not enough to save Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal.
The half-time analysis consists of the two flags and the team names. Make you own Lawrenson/Townsend comparisons…

Ted June 26, 20145:47 pm

Half time in Recife and the Accidental Anchluss goes to the break at 0-0. Both teams are currently going through to the next round.

Mark June 26, 20145:44 pm

Speaking of replicas…an appalling dive by Gyan but the confrontation was similar to Brazil’s penalty against Croatia. Refs favouring Portuguese speakers?

Mark June 26, 20145:42 pm

Defences not on top in the capital. Gyan has missed a sitter and Atsu wasn’t far off a replica of Musa’s first goal for Nigeria yesterday. Them Africans, eh Lawro? Portugal, meanwhile, are a permanent threat with the young number 7 looking lively. Fancies himself a bit though…

Ted June 26, 20145:39 pm

With Portugal ahead in Brasilia, the United States can now lose 3-0 and still qualify. Someone ought to let them know, it might spice this game up a bit.

Mark June 26, 20145:39 pm

Has Nani put on weight? He looks fat and useless today.

Mark June 26, 20145:34 pm

CR7 had FA to do with the goal – don’t believe any jug-eared state TV presenter who tries to tell you otherwise. But the preening prick nearly fires in a second goal a minute later. He looks far closer to match fitness here.

Mark June 26, 20145:31 pm

John Boye brings The Waltons back into vogue with a cracking own goal to put Portugal ahead.

Ted June 26, 20145:28 pm

A break by the United States is thwarted by Jermaine Jones being flattened by the referee on the edge of the area.

Mark June 26, 20145:26 pm

Wait…what? Lawrenson: “An African team falling out with each other at the World Cup? Whatever next?” Yes, those Africans, eh? Wouldn’t catch Europeans doing that…Greeks, Irish, French, John Terry.,..
Neymar to be sanctioned for wearing the wrong underwear..Lawrenson for talking out of it?

Ted June 26, 20145:22 pm

The USA are getting a foothold here. Zusi curls a shot just over the bar, and is met by an avalanche of knickers and phone numbers.

Mark June 26, 20145:21 pm

Ronaldo has a close-range bullet header saved by Dauda – one of those that is called brilliant but really the keeper could hardly get out of the way. Dauda fist-pumps like its the former. Tsk. Gordon Banks never did that sort of thing. Ronaldo looks pissed off. Tee-hee.

Ted June 26, 20145:19 pm

AS IT STANDS: just add one point to the table above.

Ian June 26, 20145:14 pm

Well, you’re not clearing that backlog at my house, sunny Jim. I’m open to learning the Brazilian national anthem on the Stylophone, though.

Ted June 26, 20145:10 pm

Germany are, predictably enough, dominating the United States. Some estimate their possession at 100% and it may in fact be even higher.

Tomorrow sees the first football-free day in a fortnight, which is good news for my wank backlog. Also, I’m hoping that Ian and I might be able to take the opportunity to learn how to play the admittedly-intricate Brazilian national anthem on the Stylophone.

Ian June 26, 20145:10 pm


Mark June 26, 20145:09 pm

Mowbray makes a Will Ferrell/Anchorman reference (Ferrell’s at the match apparently. “I’m going nowhere near that one,” says Lawrenson. He hasn’t heard of Will Ferrell, has he?

Mark June 26, 20145:07 pm

Ronaldo hits the bar with a “mishit cross” or “wonderful piece of improvisation” depending on your Ronaldo view. I’m guessing Lineker and Hansen are in camp number two.

Ted June 26, 20145:02 pm

Mark Lawrenson notes that in rain-hit and flood-stricken Recife, a “lot of the commentary teams haven’t even made it into the ground”.

If anyone can get us a heads up as to who these broadcasters are, we’ll all bundle off and find a stream of it. Lucky bastards.

Ian June 26, 20144:59 pm

Tomorrow morning’s piece will be about Suarez, so I’ll spare you my opinions on that matter here. You can probably guess what they are, though.

Ian June 26, 20144:58 pm

Afternoon gents. I’ve been looking forward to this match all week, so obviously I’m missing the first twenty minutes of it. Odds in favour of the USA and Germany both qualifying, of course, but hey, remember what I said before they kicked a ball about their innate propensity towards melodrama? Yeah, that. Ain’t nothing been decided yet tonight.

Mark June 26, 20144:52 pm

Did Alan Hansen just try to suggest that the US “don’t have any big players”? “Go USA” then.

Ted June 26, 20144:45 pm

Hello sports fans. I’m looking forward to this one.

A word about Luis Suarez so we can get it out of the way: personally I think he should have been banned for life. I mean, biting? Grown-up men biting one another? Yes, that is something which happens. That said, I do have to bear in mind that I may be the victim of brainwashing by the English media. Which I don’t read. Which, presumably, proves just how insidious it is.

That’s that out of the way, let’s get back to more positive subjects and only ever mention Luis Suarez again in a snarky, piss-taking aside type of way.