United States men’s national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann hit out at the World Cup schedule makers for giving Germany an advantage heading into Thursday’s massive Group G game.
“Everything was done for the big favourites,” he said after the game.
Since Germany played Ghana on Saturday in Fortaleza and the U.S. played Portugal on Sunday in the jungle outpost of Manaus, the Germans have an extra day of rest and much easier travel schedule.
Klinsmann called it unfair (via ESPN):
“[Germany], they played yesterday, we played today. We played in the Amazon, they played in a location where they don’t have to travel much. Everything was done for the big favourites. We’re going to do it the tough way.”
While the World Cup schedule came out months before we even knew who was in each group, Klinsmann is actually right that a few big teams got a scheduling advantage between the second and third group stage games.
The teams in groups B, C, E, F, and H played their second group stage games on the same day, so no team got an extra day of rest going into the final group game.
However, groups A, D, and G (the U.S.’s group) played their second group stage games one day apart. And in each situation, the 1st-seeded team in the group played first — giving them a day off heading into the final group game.
Brazil (the seeded team in Group A) played Mexico one day before Croatia played Cameroon. Uruguay (the seeded team in Group D) played England one day before Italy played Costa Rica. Germany (the seeded team in Group G) played Ghana one day before the U.S. played Portugal.
This is by design. It’s true that FIFA made its schedule before the draw and didn’t know which teams would be in which groups. But since the eight best teams in the World Cup were guaranteed to be draw into the No. 1 slots in each group, FIFA knew that the pre-draw schedule gave an advantage to whichever 1st-seeded teams were drawn into groups A, D, and G.
Here’s the pre-draw schedule. Notice how the extra day off for the top teams is built into the schedule:
The extra day of rest is enormous for Germany, especially since the U.S. played their last two games in hot, humid, physically draining conditions. The difference between three days of rest and four days of rest could be the difference in the game — as we saw against Portugal, one mental error from a tired player late in the game can change everything.
It’s also true that the U.S. is at a travel disadvantage. Manaus, where the U.S. played Portugal, is the most remote host city in the entire World Cup. As a result the Americans will log 4,900 miles over the final two group games, while Germany will travel only 2,900 miles.
But most of that is U.S. Soccer’s fault. The team picked Sao Paulo as their World Cup base before they even knew where they were going to play. Then, in a stroke of bad luck, the draw came out and all three games were being played in the extreme northern part of the country.
Klinsmann shouldn’t complain about the travel. But he has every right to complain about the extra day off.
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