By Oliver Trust
BERLIN, June 26 (Xinhua) -- Germany has never failed to get past the group stage at the World Cup and this year is no exception. By beating the USA through a Thomas Mueller goal in the 55th minute, Joachim Loew's team has comfortably topped Group G in Brazil. Juergen Klinsmann's team, however, can count themselves lucky to have qualified for the last 16 as runners-up as Portugal's 2-1 win against Ghana was not enough for them to finish above the Americans.
Germany's head coach Joachim Loew changed his team by bringing in Bastian Schweinsteiger in central midfield and Lukas Podolski on the left wing for Mario Goetze. With Schweinsteiger in the thick of the action, Germany bossed play right from the kick-off. The three up front, Podolski, Thomas Mueller and Mesut Oezil were continuously changing positions, with Mueller moving continuously from the center to both flanks and back.
German had a lot of possession. Schweinsteiger and Kroos played slightly further up the pitch, as did the German defense, to move into space quicker and stifle Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and US counterattacks.
Everything worked well in the first 15 minutes despite the atrocious conditions as it had rained for hours before the start of the game. The Germans were constantly changing the pace of the game to make the US defense work harder. In the first ten minutes alone, Mueller came close to scoring on three occasions but lacked the precision he showed in the first game against Portugal.
The final deadly pass was not coming off. Every now and again the transition from defense to attack was too slow. But Loew's team wasn't intent on taking too many risks but they nevertheless controlled play in the first half and made far fewer mistakes than in the Ghana match. Team USA found more space towards the end of the first half but were unable to capitalize.
Then Loew sent on Miroslav Klose for Podolski who was not able to break down the US defense. The substitution strengthened the spearhead and they became more dangerous when going forward. It didn't take long for Mueller to put Germany 1-0 up in the 55th minute and firmly in control of the group. If they were to finish second, USA had to hope Ghana and Portugal would neutralize each other.
Despite being regularly fouled, Schweinsteiger, Germany's man of the match, stayed in control of the midfield and was instrumental in ensuring his team was never in any danger of losing the match. Juergen Klinsmann's side simply could not break down the German system. Based on a solid defense and midfield they closed the Americans down and at the same time provided the platform for quick incisive attacks. If they continue in the same vein they will be very difficult to beat in the knockout stages.
Not wanting to waste energy and risk injuries, the solid Germans played within themselves and comfortably saw out the match. Schweinsteiger was the key figure, as long as his energy was top, but was backed up by Lahm and Kroos. Oezil was much improved and Mueller scored his fourth goal of the tournament.
And the German defense gave away nothing, right and left back had more space than in the Ghana game. The most important news for Germany's coach Loew was that his team rarely made any mistakes and that they found answers in every situation. The German game is clicking into place and they must be one of the tournament favorites.
With the Group H matches still to come, Germany and the US will know later on Thursday evening which of Belgium, Russia and Algeria they will face in the last 16.