World Cup 2014: Jurgen Klinsmann trusts in German imports

United States manager follows Jack Charlton’s example by looking beyond birthplace to boost squad

Natal

When he was a player, Jürgen Klinsmann drove a Volkswagen Beetle on which was a sticker of Snoopy in a rowing boat with the caption: “Is it much further to America?” When they take on Portugal by the banks of the Amazon, he will discover just how far the United States have come under his management.

LIVE: Follow the latest news from Day 11, including  Russia v Belgium, South Korea v Algeria and USA v Portugal

Portugal’s last encounter with the US was in Suwon a dozen years ago – a disastrous match in a disastrous World Cup. Luis Figo then occupied the place that Cristiano Ronaldo does in this team. His marker, Frankie Hejduk, took matters into his own hands after being nutmegged by Figo. Portugal’s  captain was roughed up, forced to swap wings and saw his team go  3-0 down.

The tactics Klinsmann will  employ in Manaus this evening will be very different – an attempt to replicate, however roughly, the swift, precise counter-attacking that took Germany to the semi-finals in 2006. However, many of the men he will employ to do it have a similar background.

In 2002, Hejduk was contracted to Bayer Leverkusen, and five members of Klinsmann’s squad in Brazil have been brought up in the Bundesliga. All but one have similar backgrounds. Their fathers were US servicemen who had married German women. Timmy Chandler, a defender with Eintracht Frankfurt, was born in Florida, like German-based Julian Green, but moved to Germany when he was a toddler.

 

John Brooks, who scored the winner in their opening group game against Ghana, has never lived in the country he represents. Jermaine Jones, whose father was imprisoned for drug trafficking when his son was five, has spent all his life in Europe.

Of the five, it is likely that only  Fabian Johnson, who plays right-back for Hoffenheim and won the European Under-21 title with a Germany side that contained Sami Khedira and Mesut Özil, would be with Joachim Löw in Brazil. Jones opted for the US when it became clear he was unlikely to break into the lithe midfield Löw was assembling.

There is a slight sense of embarrassment that despite all the resources lavished on Major League Soccer – the US captain, Clint Dempsey, earns a $6.5m (£3.8m) salary from Seattle Sounders – only four of its members started in the Natal game against Ghana. Klinsmann’s pursuit of German talent has echoes of Jack Charlton’s recruitment of English footballers who were unlikely to get a game for Bobby Robson but could claim some Irish ancestry – or, in Tony Cascarino’s case, no ancestry at all. One of Klinsmann’s principal targets is  Arsenal’s 17-year-old midfielder  Gedion Zelatem, who has Ethiopian parents, was largely brought up in Germany but spent six years of his life in Washington. Under US law, Zelatem is eligible for American citizenship.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated Klinsmann (left) said: “He was in the same under-15 soccer camp as my son and they spoke German  together. We are constantly in touch with him and watch his games with the Arsenal Under-19 side. Our  interest in him is huge.”

It is fitting that these players should come to the fore in Brazil, where the United States achieved their greatest moment in a World Cup, the defeat of England in Belo Horizonte in 1950.

The winner was scored by Joe Gaetjens, who was born in Haiti to a German father and was never an American citizen. He remained in Port-au-Prince until 1964 when he was taken from his dry-cleaning business by two members of Papa Doc Duvalier’s  notorious Tontons Macoutes, bundled into the back of a car, and was never seen again.

England’s defeat in 1950 had far-reaching consequences. Alf Ramsey, then a player, was so enraged by the Football Association’s disastrous lack of planning – they moved out of hotels because “they were too expensive” while Stan Mortensen injured himself running into a pothole – that he vowed, if he ever became England manager, he would have total control.

It is this kind of hold that Klinsmann has. He may walk around in canvas shoes, he may live in  southern California but he is unquestionably ruthless. His decision to drop Landon Donovan came with a comment that “playing in  the MLS had hurt him – he was  playing at 70-80 per cent and that doesn’t help anyone”. Garth Lagerway, the general manager of Real  Salt Lake, retorted by accusing  Klinsmann of trying to drive players from the MLS into Europe, preferably Germany.

Klinsmann’s statement that the US could not win the trophy, fell  flat in some quarters. Americans, bred on the Miracle of Lake Placid, when an amateur, college-based  ice-hockey team beat the Soviet Union to win Olympic gold in 1980, were not used to being told to  aim lower. But though Klinsmann may no longer drive a Volkswagen Beetle the same question pertains about  America: how much further?

USA v Portugal is live on BBC1 Sunday, kick-off 11pm

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballStriker in talks over £17m move from Manchester United
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
boksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor