SAO PAULO – United States midfielder Jermaine Jones has suffered heartbreak at the hands of the German national team before and he is in no mood to let it happen again.
Jones hasn't played against Germany before in a major tournament – he almost played for it, being one of the final cuts from the roster ahead of the 2008 European Championship.
"The coach [Joachim Loew] had already told me that I would be a part of the team and then he skipped back and said he would change it," Jones remembered on Tuesday. "Everything happens for a reason."
That devastating blow prompted the now-32-year-old to switch soccer allegiance to the U.S., becoming eligible thanks to his father Halbert, even though Jermaine was born and grew up in Frankfurt after his parents divorced.
Now he comes face to face with his past as a key part of the American lineup that will meet Germany in Recife on Thursday, with the U.S. needing a victory to win Group G and a tie to guarantee a place in the World Cup round of 16.
That serious business is obviously at the forefront of the mind of Jones, plus the other corps of German-born or German-raised players on head coach Jurgen Klinsmann's roster. However, there will undoubtedly be a unique feeling for the group when lining up at Arena Pernambuco and hearing both anthems played over the stadium sound system.
"I always say that I am proud of both countries," Jones said. "I grew up in Germany and they gave me a lot. Jogi Loew gave me the chance to play for Germany and Germany is one of the biggest football countries in the world so it is tough to play this country.
"I have my game, but I am still proud when I hear the anthems from the United States. I will take both anthems and close my eyes and let everything go through and then afterwards I will play my game."
Jones is a pragmatist and a tough character. He was classy enough to still turn up in the crowd to support Germany at the Euros in 2008 despite his disappointment, yet could not pass up the dream of playing at the highest international level when the U.S. came knocking to give him that chance.
He has won over the U.S. fan base and further entrenched his position as one of the most vital players on the team during this World Cup, setting up Clint Dempsey's dramatic opener against Ghana and crashing home a long-range equalizer against Portugal.
With Klinsmann having emphasized the need for a strong mentality and to fight for victory rather than settle for a draw on Thursday, he need not have any concern that Jones is wavering from the message.
"For this game against Germany, I would say the whole team wants to play a good game," Jones said. "It is not the point to beat a friend or something. It is the point to come to the next round. This is the important stuff.
"I would say if we lose but we come to the next round, everybody is happy. That is the point – we have to come to the next round. We will try everything to win this game. We don't go in this game and say maybe a draw will help us or will be enough. We want to go there and show the people that we can battle and that we can beat them."
When asked about the typical soccer mentality, Jones described it as "straight, concentrated and focused." That's how Jones is, too – and how the U.S. will need to be when it matters most.
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