One-time coaching duo Joachim Low and Jurgen Klinsmann are contrasting characters, but the highly-regarded Germans have many things in common too. Low is a generally rational and always a meticulous strategist, but Klinsmann is an up-and-at-em motivator who you feel could move mountains with his enthusiasm and upbeat determination.
Not so long ago they complemented each other perfectly as a team. They are universally regarded as the initiators of a new brand of sparkling attacking football in Germany. And they frequently embraced in celebration at the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ on home soil in what came to be known as the 'summer fairytale'. But on Thursday all that will be set aside for 90 minutes as past bonds and a current friendship are temporarily suspended.
USA play Germany in Recife on the final matchday in Group G, so for the duration of the game at least, 'Klinsi' and 'Jogi' are fierce rivals. The former Germany boss now coaches the Stars and Stripes and his ex-assistant is the three-time world champions’ long-serving coach in his own right.
"He'll do his job, we're good friends, and I'll do my job," Klinsmann declared. "This isn't the time for phone calls between friends. It's business time!"
A very special reunion
Brazil 2014 has already witnessed half-brothers squaring off. We are also likely to see other national coaches lead their charges into battle against their countries of birth. However, the Klinsmann-Low bout is still a standout contest. In an ironic twist so typical of the game, the coach who has been based in California for 16 years now could be ejected from the tournament by the team he himself formed and set on its current course. Naturally, there is a flipside: victory over the Germans, one of the shorter-odds favourites for the trophy, would see the North Americans prove their credentials at the top table of global football once and for all.
USA have rarely appeared as confident and bristling with intent at a World Cup than in Brazil at the present time. "We go to Recife aiming to win and with the belief we can beat Germany," Klinsmann stated. His manner of speaking remains familiar to the audience back in Europe: statements like this are not driven by arrogance or complacency, but by Klinsi’s typically unshakeable desire and ability to rouse his charges to action. Following a 2-1 victory over Ghana in their first match and an unlucky draw with Portugal, with the team spearheaded by FIFA World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo equalising in the fifth minute of stoppage time, Klinsmann has every reason to be confident.
The powerful new edge to Team USA’s football has not gone unnoticed in the Germany camp. "They've made remarkable progress in recent years, much of it due to Jurgen Klinsmann,” remarked Low. The quality within Group G means neither the Europeans nor the North Americans can afford a slip-up in the intriguing encounter. Nor will either boss instruct his troops to take it easy: "Of course we want to stay top!" declared Low.
Friends and rivals
The script and setting for the contest could hardly be better. Klinsmann hails from Swabia and was born a matter of 200 kilometres away from Black Forest native Low. The pair are close in age too: the Germany chief is 54 and the US boss turns 50 in just over a month. And each recently admitted in exclusive FIFA.com interviews he would rather not be facing his former fellow traveller and partner at this stage.
Klinsmann said: "You think to yourself, ‘Come on, did it have to be like that?’ You just have to take it in your stride though. We’ll do everything to give Germany a good game. We’re aiming to reach the next round, so if we need one point or three to achieve that then we’ll try to do it."
Low voiced a similar point of view: "It's not the first time it's happened as we faced the same situation on our USA tour last summer, but of course this time there's a lot more at stake. I'm always happy to see Jurgen and we've stayed in close contact. I value his opinion and it's always interesting to hear what he thinks about certain situations and ideas, away from football too." The current Germany coach made no secret of his debt to his predecessor: "We worked well together as a team and it was an unbelievably eventful and influential period of time. I know that I owe Jurgen a great deal."
Follow the links to read the FIFA.com interviews with Joachim Low and Jurgen Klinsmann. The USA boss’s statements are also available to view as a video.
That all counts for nothing on Thursday, because the only thing that matters is advancing to the Round of 16 in Brazil. The game could tell as a lot about what the immediate future holds for both teams. And it might also raise a few memories of events at the 2002 finals in Korea and Japan.
The sides met at the quarter-final stage in Ulsan and USA almost pulled off a sensational upset, but a Michael Ballack strike ultimately proved enough to send the Europeans through to the last four. Two years and 39 days later Klinsmann and Low set out on their successful partnership. They are now poised for another shared highlight, but from a completely different perspective.
Do you remember? Follow the link and watch the highlights of the USA-Germany quarter-final at Korea/Japan 2002.