RIO DE JANEIRO — It’s time for Team USA to put up or shut up in Brazil. Beat Germany, or at least eke out a tie, and the Americans go through to the knockout stage. Lose, and they open up the possibility that their World Cup 2014 run ends there.
That’s one of five things we’ll be watching for and talking about Thursday:
1. NOTE FROM THE BOSS
Could be quiet in the office today:
First came the trash talk between Germany and the United States — at the United Nations, of all places! Now Team USA’s German-born coach Jurgen Klinsmann is trying to rally fans Stateside. The game starts at noon Eastern time, right in the middle of the work day, so Klinsmann tweeted a form letter for employees to give their bosses.
“I understand that this absence may reduce the productivity of your workplace, but I can assure you that it is for an important cause,” Klinsmann deadpanned. Between Klinsmann’s own account and that of the U.S. Men’s National Team, it was retweeted nearly 40,000 times in the first six hours after the coach tweeted it.
2. WILL FIFA BITE BACK?
Clock ticking on Suarez:
He bit a guy four years ago and got banned for seven matches. He bit a guy last year and got banned for 10. And now world-class striker Luis Suarez is accused of biting another guy Tuesday during Uruguay’s vital match against Italy.
He went face-first into Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder late in the match, no question. But were his fangs out? Chiellini yanked his shirt down to show what he claims are tooth marks. Suarez responded that it was just a normal collision. Now world soccer’s governing body is deciding what happened.
If it rules that Suarez did bite Chiellini, it could ban him for up to two years. The decision is due Thursday.
3. WHO GETS THE BOOT?
He shoots, he scores:
The race is on to be the tournament’s top scorer, with the winner getting the Golden Boot. Will it be Lionel Messi, who has given Argentina magical winning shots in their last two games? Or hometown favorite Neymar? They’re not the only ones in the race. Germany’s Thomas Mueller scored a hat-trick in his first match, while Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri did the same in Wednesday night’s game against Honduras.
And it’s not only the tournament’s top teams that have great strikers.
After Nigeria’s Ahmed Musa became the first player from his country to score more than once in a World Cup match, his fans are ready to put him up against the best in the game:
And don’t forget there’s more to the game than scoring goals. Check out this FIFA app for comparing two players and see how your favorite stacks up.
4. SHOW ME DA MONEY
Planeload of cash:
Ghana battles Portugal on Thursday for one of the last places in the knockout round — but it’s not prepared to do it just for the sake of national pride.
Media reports say a planeload with more than $3 million in cash was sent from Ghana to Brazil after the Black Stars apparently complained they hadn’t been paid their appearance fees since the start of the competition.
The country’s president personally intervened to make sure the money came through, according to the country’s Football Association.
5. BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS
Middle East unity:
Iranians weren’t the only ones rallying behind Team Melli at the World Cup. As the underdogs fought for a place in the knockout stage, an Israeli spotted this in a bar in Tel Aviv.
Unfortunately, Bosnia and Herzegovina dashed Iran’s hopes. Bosnia’s 3-1 victory means both teams go home.