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Germany defense looks vulnerable ahead of US game

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Germany defense looks vulnerable ahead of US game
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Ghana's Andre Ayew holds off Germany's Philipp Lahm, left, during the group G World Cup soccer …

PORTO SEGURO, Brazil (AP) -- Germany's defense looked slow and unreliable in the 2-2 draw with Ghana. It will have to improve considerably if Germany wants to go far in the tournament.

The midfield could do with some adjustments as well, but the coaching staff insists it is happy with how the team has played so far.

Assistant coach Hansi Flicks said Monday captain Philipp Lahm would continue to play in midfield and not return to his natural position as right back, a move that would bolster the defense. Lahm was unconvincing against Ghana, giving away the ball before the Africans scored the second goal.

''We see him in the midfield, he gives us order and balance,'' Flick said Monday.

Germany plays the United States on Thursday in Recife, and a draw would see both teams advance. Germany would win the group on goal difference, thanks to its 4-0 victory over Portugal. But Flick said Germany would not settle for a draw.

''We will play to win, we want to win the group,'' Flick said.

Coach Joachim Loew has been using four central defenders as his back four, moving Lahm into the midfield. Jerome Boateng has been on the right back and Benedikt Hoewedes on the left, both out of position. Mats Hummels and Per Mertesacker have not often played alongside each other in the center and have looked out of synch at times.

Newcomer Shkodran Mustafi was slow on Ghana's first goal as a substitute for Boateng.

''We were behind against Ghana and we had to attack. Even after we tied the match we continued to attack because we wanted to win and that's when you expose yourself,'' Hummels said Monday. ''When we execute well, we can control the opponent. But we must not lose the ball that often, we have to be dominant both when we have the ball and when we don't.''

After thrashing Portugal 4-0, Germany looked vulnerable to Ghana's counterattacks and the defense struggled to cope with Ghana's pace.

''We could have wished for more stability,'' Hummels said.

Hummels said there were discussions among the players about positions, but ''it's pretty much irrelevant for us where Lahm plays.''

If Lahm went back to right back, Bastian Schweinsteiger could step into defensive midfield, having played well when coming off the bench against Ghana. Mesut Ozil has been ineffective as an attacking midfielder, while Sami Khedira is still looking for his rhythm after being sidelined with a knee injury for six months. Khedira and Boateng have been cleared to train after picking up injuries against Ghana.

Flick gave no indication as to whether Germany's only true striker, Miroslav Klose, could get a bigger role. Klose scored the equalizer against Ghana less than two minutes after coming into the game, a goal that also tied the World Cup record of 15 shared by Brazil's Ronaldo.

Germany could also turn to another forward, Lukas Podolski, who had strong performances in two warm-up games before the World Cup.

''We are happy we have so many options,'' Flick said.

Germany always looks like it can score, but when its defense comes under pressure, it also looks like it can concede any time.

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