[USA-GERMANY] Previewing Germany's U.S. tour, one German reporter joked that the players will need their ID badges showing to assure the team bus driver they're allowed on board. Spiegel Online said Germany is playing "test games" with nothing to test, because Coach Joachim Loew's squad is already set with players not on this trip. But this German B team showed with a 4-2 win over Ecuador on Wednesday in Florida that the Americans face a stiff challenge on Sunday in Washington, D.C. (kickoff: 2:30 pm ET; ESPN2, WatchESPN and UniMas).
Halfway through World Cup 2014 qualifying, Germany is in absolute command -- undefeated and with twice as many points as its nearest competitors, and scoring an average of 3.67 goals per game. But the juggernaut is motored by players from Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich (which plays in the German Cup final on Saturday) and aren’t with the team, while midfielders Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira are still busy with Real Madrid in La Liga.
At least a few of the German players at RFK Stadium on Sunday may be recognizable to the fans who are spending an average of $60 for seats.
Miroslav Klose, the 34-year-old striker who has scored 14 goals in the past three World Cups, joined the squad after the Ecuador game, arriving after winning the Italian Cup with Lazio in a 1-0 win over Roma on Sunday.
Lukas Podolski, 27, made history on Wednesday with the fastest goal ever for Germany, scoring nine seconds after kickoff. He scored again in the win over Ecuador to give him 46 career national team goals. If he scores against the USA, he’ll tie for fourth on the Germany’s all-time leading scorers’ list with Jurgen Klinsmann, the man Podolski played for at the 2006 World Cup and had a falling out with at Bayern Munich during Klinsmann’s short stint at the German power when Klinsmann tried out Landon Donovan.
Podolski was relegated to brief appearances off the bench in 2014 World Cup qualifying so far and is fighting his way back in Loew’s favor. He now plays at Arsenal, along with defender Per Mertesacker, who made his 89th appearance when he captained the team against Ecuador.
The fourth player with decent prospects of going to Brazil is 22-year-old Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Andre Schuerrle, for whom Chelsea is reportedly willing to pay some $25 million.
Half the German players on the U.S. trip have fewer than five caps, but their inexperience with the national team is much a reflection of how hard it is to break into Loew’s well-established squad of relatively young players.
In 2010, when the Germans finished third and played their best soccer at a World Cup since 1990, the team averaged an age of only 24.7 years. Players such as Schuerrle, Schalke’s 19-year-old Julian Draxler and Bayer Leverkusen’s 24-year-old Lars Bender, who scored twice against Ecuador, might be shoo-ins for spots in the German midfield were this not the era of Ozil, Khedira, Thomas Mueller, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mario Goetze, Toni Kroos and Marco Reus.
Klinsmann’s first time coaching against his former team might be against a B team, but it’s a second string full of players who’d be first-choice for most other nations.