The United States national team will face Germany in Recife on Thursday in the final round of games of Group G.
Jurgen Klinsmann's side can still reach the knockout stages of the World Cup if it loses to the European giants, but both sides are guaranteed to progress if they draw.
This has led many to believe the two sides could play out a "Biscotto."
This is the Italian word for "biscuit" or "cookie," but it also refers to the slightly less delicious scenario in which two teams in a major tournament deliberately play for a result that is mutually beneficial.
One of the most famous examples of a Biscotto occurred at the 1982 World Cup, when West Germany faced Austria in the final match of the first group stage. Going into the game, the European neighbors were fully aware that a West German victory of one or two goals would ensure safe passage to the next stage for both teams, while knocking Algeria and Chile out of the competition.
Well, guess what happened? Germany went up 1-0 after 10 minutes and neither side made any serious attempts to change that scoreline for the remainder of the game. Hence, they both qualified for the next stage.
The Italians — who are no strangers to the concept of predetermining the outcome of a game — were scorned by a Biscotto at Euro 2004. In the final round of Group C, Denmark and Sweden faced each other, knowing that a draw would suit both and eliminate Italy on goal difference.
Unfortunately for the Azzurri, the Scandinavians played out a 2-2 draw which eased them both into the quarterfinals.
Although it seems underhand, a Biscotto does not necessarily come about by a predetermined agreement between two sides. When national teams meet knowing that a draw will benefit both sides, the motivation to push forward for the win rapidly — and somewhat understandably — decreases.
There has been much speculation that the USA and Germany might be encouraged to split the points on Thursday, particularly because coaches Klinsmann and Jogi Loew are good friends. When this idea was mooted in the post-match press conference following the Portugal draw, however, Klinsmann was quick to dismiss it. From FTW:
“The U.S. is known to give all they have in every single game,” said Klinsmann, adding: “Otherwise Mexico wouldn’t be here.”
Klinsi was referring to the USA's qualification match with Panama which it won to help Mexico reach the tournament, despite having nothing to play for. Of course, there is a little more at stake this week.
The USMNT might not be playing for a draw, but don't be too surprised if that's the way the cookie crumbles...