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USA faces Germany Thursday with chance to advance in World Cup

U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann attends a training session

U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann attends a training session in the Pernambuco Arena in Recife on June 25, 2014 on the eve of a Group G match against Germany in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Credit: Getty Images / Patrik Stollarz

RECIFE, Brazil - On Thursday, the U.S. National Team will hope to prove that there is life after the Group of Death.

The Americans find themselves on the precipice of accomplishing a feat that many thought virtually impossible when the Group G lineup was determined: reaching the Round of 16 knockout stage of the World Cup while having to face Ghana, Portugal and Germany.

A tie or a win over Germany (1-0-1, four points, plus four goal differential) at Arena Pernambuco will propel the USA (1-0-1, four, plus one) into the Round of 16. Even a loss, combined with a tie in the match between Ghana (0-1-1, one, minus one) and Portugal (0-1-1, one, minus four) in Brasilia would be enough for the USA.

If the Americans move on, they will reach the second round in consecutive World Cups for the first time.

Both games will be played at the same time, kicking off at noon EDT.

"It's one of the biggest matches of our lives for a lot of us," USA right back Fabian Johnson said.

The top two finishers will play two Group H sides -- Belgium, which has clinched a spot, and either Algeria, Russia or South Korea.

"We are very capable of beating Germany," USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "Without being too overconfident, without being too positive, it's possible. This World Cup is full of surprises. We want to be one of those surprises."

This confrontation is teeming with story lines. The opposing coaches are German and good friends. The USA has five German-Americans, all of whom have performed in the German Bundesliga.

There has been talk of the foes playing for a draw, recalling one Cup embarrassment, when West Germany recorded a 1-0 win over neighbor Austria, the exact score that both needed to advance in 1982.

"I don't think that's in our nature," Johnson said. "Everybody wants to win this game."

Especially the coaches.

"Many times we read in the media that we won't attack each other," German coach Joachim Low said. "When we go onto the pitch, we want to win."

Klinsmann, a 1990 World Cup champion with West Germany, coached the Germans to a third-place finish in 2006. His assistant was Low.

"We think alike," Klinsmann said.

Low called their friendship "a perfect, trustworthy relationship." When they get together, they talk about soccer, Germany and the USA. "People who know us know we're both ambitious," he said. "The relationship will continue regardless of the result."

Klinsmann gave his old team a thumb's up.

"It's just fun to watch," he said. "I'm proud of what he has done and the whole team has done. Germany plays strong in a way that they are going to the final four and [can] try to claim the title."

The USA will start at least two German-Americans -- defensive midfielder Jermaine Jones, who has emerged as a star because of his impressive all-around performance, and Johnson, whose constant overlapping caused great headaches for Portugal in a 2-2 draw Sunday.

"They're willing to fight. They're fit," German midfielder Mesut Ozil said. "They can be very dangerous. We cannot underestimate the United States."

Having played in Manaus Sunday, the USA has one day less of recovery than Germany, which recorded a 2-2 tie with Ghana Saturday.

"I don't think it's really bothering us," USA midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. "This is the biggest game of a lot of our lives so any fatigue in our legs will be erased."

One ominous stat: The four teams that played in Manaus lost their next game.

With the Americans so close to escaping the Group of Death, they just might bury that trend and find a second life in the World Cup.

New York Sports