The Italians call it a “biscotto.” It is a mutually convenient result. Germany and the United States could draw their final Group G match on Thursday. This would suit both teams, on paper. The Germans would advance as group champions, as they anticipated entering the tournament. The Americans would reach the knockout round.
Biscotti have happened before at major tournaments. The 1982 World Cup saw the infamous “Nonaggression Pact of Gijon.” West Germany and Austria knew a 1-0 or 2-0 West Germany win would send both teams through on goal difference at Algeria’s expense. After West Germany scored in the 10th minute, the teams kicked the ball around for the subsequent 80, to the disgust of just about everyone not involved.
The head of the Austrian delegation, Hans Tschak, was less than apologetic to the Algerians afterward.
“Naturally today’s game was played tactically. But if 10,000 ‘sons of the desert’ here in the stadium want to trigger a scandal because of this it just goes to show that they have too few schools. Some sheikh comes out of an oasis, is allowed to get a sniff of World Cup air after 300 years and thinks he’s entitled to open his gob.”
That match is a major reason subsequent group finales have been played simultaneously.
Euro 2004 saw Sweden and Denmark more or less conspire to eliminate Italy. Both teams were on four points, with Italy on two heading into the final match. The tiebreaker would reduce results to a mini-league between the three teams. Italy had scored 1 and conceded 1 in drawing both of the Scandinavian countries, meaning Sweden and Denmark would advance with a 2-2 draw based on the goals scored tiebreaker, regardless of what Italy did against Bulgaria. Both Scandinavian teams discredited the idea before the match. But, it happened nonetheless.
It should be noted, though, there have been instances where it has not happened. Italy faced a similar position during the group stage in Euro 2012. Spain and Croatia could have sent the Italians home with a 2-2 draw. Though Spain won 1-0, allowing Italy to reach the knockout stages and the eventual final. They did meet the Italy again in the final and obliterated them 4-0.
Group A in 2010 had the same point alignment entering the final round of matches as Group G in 2014. Uruguay and Mexico on four points could have eliminated the South Africa/France winner with a draw. Uruguay, however, took a lead from Luis Suarez in the first half and Mexico never equalized. The Mexicans went through anyway over South Africa on goal difference.
Will the U.S. and Germany draw? Perhaps. Will they conspire to do so? It’s doubtful.
A draw is not really a “beneficial” result for Germany. The Germans face all but zero danger of not qualifying with a (+8) goal difference advantage over Portugal and a (+5) over Ghana. Going through as group winner would be nice. But doing so by failing to beat a far less talented team coached by Jurgen Klinsmann, after drawing the second match, would only ramp up pressure on them. A 3-0 win would suit them far better. The unsporting bargain would be far more amenable to the United States.
Familiarity between former German colleagues Joachim Low and Jurgen Klinsmann won’t affect this. This isn’t the sort of thing that’s worked out in advance with cloaks and clandestine cell phone calls. If anything, those two will be more likely to go after one another. There is also lingering ill sentiment from Klinsmann’s stint with Bayern Munich.
Both teams will be aware of what a draw would mean, however. While the prospect of Philipp Lahm and Clint Dempsey winking to each other at midfield may be minimal, the mutually beneficial draw scenario could come into play late in a tied match. If it’s 1-1 in the 85th minute with heat fatigue in effect, don’t expect either team to bomb forward and try anything rash. That wouldn’t be conspiracy, just common sense.
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[Image via Getty]