Before the tournament started the United States was 1-0-4 (W-D-L) against their 2014 "Group of Death" opponents, but they've since picked up a win and a draw. The one team they have not beaten in the World Cup is now Germany. Here's a look back at the prior two matches.
June 15th, 1998 in Paris, France - Germany 2 : 0 USA
Following the 1994 World Cup, where the US hosted the event and advanced past the group stage for the first time since 1930, expectations were high entering the 1998 version in France. But the United States were still large underdogs in their opener against Germany, led by legendary forward Jürgen Klinsmann. Little did we know at the time how well we were going to learn that name. The Germans were European champions and had reached the quarterfinals in eleven straight World Cups, winning three. The US was simply out to prove that their last World Cup run was not a fluke.
The match was closer than the score indicated, but the current US head coach proved the decisive difference for Die Mannschaft. Just eight minutes into play, Klinsmann assisted on the first goal. His header from an Olaf Thon corner kick landed precisely on the head of Andy Möller who pounded the ball past a helpless Kasey Keller. Stunned, the US was on their heels for the remainder of the first half, but managed to get to the half just down the one goal.
Then they began to play. After the match Coach Steve Sampson called the second half "attractive, attacking soccer" and it nearly caught the Germans off guard.
Halftime substitute Frankie Hejduk blasted a header toward the lower left corner of the goal in the 53rd minute, but a diving stop by German goalkeeper Andreas Köpke stole the spotlight. "That ball goes in, and everything is different," said defender Eddie Pope after the game. The US dominated play in the second half but again Klinsmann made the key strike. He iced the game in the 64th minute on a breakaway goal. The United States would continue to threaten but ultimately fall by the score of 2-0.
The German coach was complimentary after the match, saying the "It's clear they have learned and made definite strides. They are not poor cousins anymore." But the US never recovered from the loss and arguably never played as well the rest of the tournament. In their next match, the US played Iran and lost 2-1. The US was forced to watch Team Melli celebrate their first and only World Cup victory. They then followed that loss with a 1-0 disappointment to Yugoslavia. The three losses were a dark mark for US Soccer that had theoretically improved since the nation's thrilling achievement in 1994.
The United States would meet Germany again four years later. Following their huge upset win in Portugal, the U.S. would escape the group and make it to the round of 16 where they drew their familiar foe Mexico.
The United States played another great game and dispatched their neighbors 2-0. That set up a gigantic rematch with world power Germany in the quarterfinals. The United States hadn't been this far in the tournament since the days when only thirteen teams competed. Could they match their heroics against Portugal and knock off another Goliath?
June 21st in 2002 Ulsan, South Korea - Germany 1 : 0 USA
The US applied their lessons learned four years prior and attacked the Germans from the outset. They dominated the stat sheet taking eleven shots to the German's six and possessed the ball for 58% of the game. The best chance came in the 17th minute from the left foot of Landon Donovan. The German keeper Oliver Kahn made a diving save to keep the sheet clean. Despite earning the majority of quality chances, the US came up empty handed.
Goal scoring midfielder Michael Ballack would prove the difference in the match. His header off a free kick in the 39th minute scored the game's only goal. Defender Tony Sanneh who guarded Ballack on the play said after the match, "I didn't jump high enough or get back enough. That's why we're going home and they're playing." It wasn't quite that simple - the Germans were fortunate that the referee missed an obvious handball on the goal line in the second half. The correct call, including a red card, would have given the US a penalty kick in the 49th minute as well as a man advantage. Claudio Reyna would say of that play, "Yeah, those are the breaks, we're not going to cry...That's the game. We had other chances."
The US left South Korea offering no excuses and with their heads held high. They played well enough to make the semifinal and made the best run the US had seen since the first World Cup. Despite playing well enough to win against both Portugal and Germany, the US was only able to pull off one win.
That was the last time the United States played Germany in a competitive match. The Ballack header and the handball still occupy the minds of the American fans, and they'd like nothing more than to see the soccer Gods call one their way in the next encounter.