The Group of Death is up for grabs on Thursday when Germany and the United States play the deciding game for the right to move on to the knockout round.

There are plenty of storylines leading up to this match. It’s Germany vs. USA, Jurgen Klinsmann against his former protégé, Joachim Loew, five German born players on team USA going against their friends and compatriots, and finally, qualification to the round of 16.

Before the World Cup began, I wrote a guide on how the United States could get out of group play called, “The Hitchikers Guide To The Group Of Death”. It essentially had three steps: 1. Beat Ghana (The U.S. beat Ghana 2-1 on June 16th) 2. Win or Draw against Portugal (2-2 draw on June 22nd) and 3. Hope for a generous German squad.

The third is yet to be decided, but both Germany and the United States come into the match having everything to lose and nothing to gain by trying to go out and fight each other to the death on the pitch. Why fight to the death when a draw would qualify both teams for the second round? Suddenly my guide is not looking so improbable after all.

Both coaches however are saying that they will go for broke come Thursday and neither side is looking for a draw result. While in press conferences this is what you have to say, the conspiracy theorist in all of us wonders if that is what we’ll see on the pitch. I happen to believe that when you put 22 competitive people on the field at the same time, the natural tendency is they will compete to win. But here is why a draw makes sense for both teams:

Both squads are nursing injuries. Jozy Altidore will miss his second consecutive match with a hamstring injury; Matt Besler has looked hurt in both matches thus far, while Clint Dempsey and Fabian Johnson are nursing black eyes. For Germany, Mats Hummels is nursing an injury, and Germany would love to get Miroslav Klose as much rest as possible for his record breaking pursuit in the knockout rounds. A more conservative game bodes well for both of these teams in the round of 16.

Let’s face it, if these two teams met at full strength, Germany would win nine out of ten times. Even their substitutes almost beat the U.S. losing 4-3 in Washington last year. The United States would love a draw, but more than likely Germany will come out to get the win. That is why the first 60 minutes are the most crucial of the match.

Early on, expect both teams to feel each other out and see the style of how each team is playing. Although Klinsmann says his team will “push it and go for gold,” he’s too smart to attempt such a strategy knowing how close Ghana is behind the United States in goal differential. That is why team USA must park the bus for the first 60 minutes. Germany is dangerous on offense. They are bigger and stronger and can absolutely hurt you on set pieces. The United States needs to sit back on defense and let Germany strike shot after contested shot at them. Hold your ground, and limit the amount of corner kick opportunities for Germany.

Germany showed they can be weak at the centre-back position in their 2-2 draw against Ghana. The U.S. would be smart to sit back and wait for opportunities to counter with Clint Dempsey. If Germany makes a mistake and sends to many men forward, get out on the counter attack as fast as possible and make them pay. This is the only strategy that makes sense for the United States.

Kyle Beckerman will be responsible for protecting the back line for team USA, and he has to contain, German midfielder Mesut Ozil. Fabian Johnson and DeMarcus Beasley will be responsible to stop the lethal Thomas Mueller and Miroslav Klose when they are on the pitch and Geoff Cameron has to play better than he did against Portugal where his two biggest mental mistakes of the match both turned into goals for Portugal.

I anticipate both terms to start out conservative for the start of the match. Despite his denials publicly, Klinsmann knows Germany well having coached them eight years ago. He will set up defensively to nullify the potent German offense. When openings arise, the U.S. will look to counter and counter quickly. I expect Germany to score a goal in the first half off of a set piece and the United States to get the equalizer early in the second half.

If both teams are tied late, I see no reason why either squad would take a risk to try and score a goal as moving men forward could make either team vulnerable in the counter attack. If you are the United States, you must try and get the match to the 70th minute with a tie on the scoreboard. Speaking of scoreboard, there should be plenty of scoreboard watching as Ghana will play Portugal simultaneously and the result of that match will weigh heavily on who moves on to the next round.

My Prediction: Expect the United States to park the bus early and look for openings on the counter attack. Whatever scoring happens will happen in the first 60 minutes. The game ends in a 1-1 Draw.

Betting odds courtesy of
USA:        +½ (+150)   //    +700 Moneyline 
Germany:  -½ (-180)   //   -180 Moneyline
Draw +240