MAINZ, Germany -- As U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann plots to defeat his homeland at the World Cup later Thursday, his team can't count on the support of his relatives back in Germany.
On its Facebook page, a Stuttgart bakery owned by Klinsmann's family is advertising American-style muffins decorated with German flags, small cakes in the shape of the country's jerseys and pretzels resembling soccer players.
But while Klinsmann sparked controversy earlier this month by stating that it's "just not realistic" to talk about the U.S. winning the World Cup, his countrymen aren't taking Thursday's crucial Group G showdown lightly.
As a player, Klinsmann won the World Cup title with Germany in 1990 before becoming the team’s head coach himself and leading the squad to a much applauded third-place finish at the 2006 World Cup.
Germany's Bild newspaper previewed Thursday's game with the headline "Tremble Final Against Klinsi!" in the wake of Sunday's dramatic 2-2 draw with Portugal.
Hundreds of thousands of German fans will gather at public viewing sites and lawmakers in Berlin have vowed to take an official break from politics when it kicks off.
According to the most recent FIFA rankings, Germany is the world's second-best team with the U.S. coming in at No. 13. But both the German team and its fans back home have respect for the quality and performance of Team USA in the tournament with tabloids branding them "hungry."
And one advantage for the U.S.: Klinsmann's time coaching Germany gives him an intimate knowledge of the country's players and tactics.
German ties also run deep on the U.S. team these days. The U.S. roster also includes five German-American players — Jermaine Jones, Timothy Chandler, Fabian Johnson, Julian Green and John Anthony Brooks. Four are the sons of U.S. servicemen, who were raised in Germany.
“The USA are a tough team to play against, but Germany are still favorites,” said Thomas Hitzlsperger, who scored six goals while representing Germany in 52 international matches between 2004 and 2010. “I expect an exciting game because both teams will want to qualify from the group as group winners.”
Hitzlsperger, who is working as an analyst for broadcaster ZDF during this year’s World Cup, told NBC News that the fact that current German coach Joachim Loew served as Klinsmann's assistant during the 2006 tournament would "add extra spice to the game."
"The German influence, with a German coach and several players with German roots, has made a big difference for the strength of the U.S. team"
Both squads need wins to be certain of their place in last 16 of the tournament in Brazil.
The U.S. would advance to the knockout stage of consecutive World Cups for the first time with a win or a tie against the Germans, or if there is a draw between Ghana and Portugal in a match played simultaneously. If there’s a winner in the other game, the Americans also could advance with four points on a tiebreaker: goal difference, followed by total goals, head-to-head points, head-to-head goal difference and head-to-head goals. If a tie still isn’t resolved, there would be a drawing of lots.
If Germany loses, its fate would depend on the outcome of the Ghana vs. Portugal match. The Germans would advance, if the game is tied. But, if either Ghana or Portugal then win the match, that team would be tied in group points with Germany, and the score of the game would determine who moves on to the next round.
“The playoffs have started for us. To hell we will rest on a tie,” Germany’s assistant coach Hansi Flick told reporter this week. “We want to win the game."
"I am a little surprised how good the U.S. team is playing and I think it will be a very difficult game for the Germans," said 13-year old Mino Wendlandt, a midfielder on a local soccer team in Wiesbaden, Germany. "My guess is that Germany will win 3- 2."
Sebastian Thoennes, a 28-year-old soccer fan who plans to watch the game at a public viewing event in Frankfurt, also was counting on a German win.
“The German influence, with a German coach and several players with German roots, has made a big difference for the strength of the U.S. team,” he said. "But our team still has more experience in big tournaments, which will leave them on top."
Hitzlsperger, who played in the 2006 World Cup, predicted that “both teams will advance from the group."
However, Germany's "Octopus Oracle" had other ideas. Regina failed to select either team and appeared to suggest the match would end in a tie.
Germany's press also changed its tone Thursday with Bild's headline reading: "Klinsi, today you will see stars!"
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.