As if the U.S. men’s national soccer team didn’t have enough of a challenge in facing world power Germany, it must overcome a curse in Thursday’s game as well.
Every team at this year’s World Cup that has played in the muggy heat of Manaus, as the Americans did Sunday against Portugal, has lost in their subsequent game. It’s an impressive list, too: England, Italy, Cameroon and Croatia.
But U.S. defender Matt Besler, the Sporting Kansas City star, said it wasn’t all that hot in Manaus. In fact, Besler said, Kansas City is hotter.
“I agree,” U.S. midfielder Graham Zusi told reporters ahead of Thursday’s 11 a.m. game in Recife, Brazil. “I don’t think it was that bad to be honest. When it got down to it at night it cooled off and the humidity wasn’t as bad. I think after about 24 hours the bodies felt great.”
Zusi, who also plays for Sporting Kansas City, said the recovery from Sunday’s match began quickly.
“It starts right after the match ends,” Zusi said. “You get your shakes in, your meals, ice baths, a little massage if you need it. … You try to sleep as much as you (can) on the plane and then when you get back, we all had until the afternoon to get as much sleep as we wanted to. When the afternoon came around, we went down and guys who played a majority of the minutes just stayed at the hotel and did a 30 minute bike ride and then got massages and stretched. Just kind of the perfect situation for us.”
The U.S. team needs only a tie Thursday to qualify for the knockout stage of the World Cup. If the Americans beat Germany, they would win Group G. The U.S. also could advance with a loss, if the Ghana-Portugal game, which starts at the same time, ends in a tie.
A Ghana or Portugal win, coupled with a U.S. loss, means it would come down to goal-differential.
Germany is a three-time World Cup winner and it has advanced to at least the semifinals in six of the last eight World Cups.
Zusi said the U.S. team is up to the challenge.
“(We) very quickly switched our mentality over to the Germany game,” Zusi said. “The preparation has been great. We’ve obviously watched their matches as well and we’re going to try to put ourselves in the best position to have success against them.”
Germany has a bit of an edge, because it played Saturday (a 2-2 tie with Ghana), and it hasn’t had as much travel as the United States. However, Zusi dismissed that.
“I think our staff has done a fantastic job at getting our bodies in the best possible shape to perform and clearly they’ve done that,” he said. “The travel for us is not the initiative whatsoever. I think it’s been great that we’ve done it right after the games. It makes it easier for us I think to get recovered. It’s just been a non-issue. I haven’t even really thought about it. It’s something that hasn’t come up.”