Gehrig, Baiden on opposite sides of Saturday's Germany-Ghana match
It's one of the bigger matches of the 2014 FIFA World Cup so far: Germany vs. Ghana on Saturday in a pivotal Group G encounter, a match that will go a long way to determine the United States' advancement chances as well as those of both Die Mannschaft and the Black Stars.
It also pits Crew defender Eric Gehrig against midfielder Kingsley "Fifi" Baiden in a battle of heritage and fandom, and as you would expect, the two have been going at it all week long leading up to the match.
"I go at Fifi because Fifi's Ghanian," said Gehrig. "I never go at the Americans as far as Germany over them. They come to me. They start it and they'll get me going a little bit. I do go at Fifi; I'm in his head about Ghana-Germany because this is it. They have to win or else they're done. Not gonna happen, that's for sure."
"[Gehrig] told me it's over," laughed Baiden. "He said if we can't beat the U.S., then it's game over. I said, 'Gehrig, you guys should watch out. Anything can happen in the game.' We've been going back and forth."
For Baiden, it represented an additional layer of chirping after the United States defeated his native side Ghana on Monday.
"As soon as we lost to the U.S., my phone started blowing up with some of the guys saying, 'dude, what happened? What happened?' It's fun. It brings a kind of fun aspect to the game. We all enjoy watching and playing the game. Having that smack talk makes the game very exciting."
Gehrig remains confident, but admits that Ghana might have just the recipe to give his Germans a tough match.
"If there's a shot at the German team, it's the speed, right? I think their defense, even with [Mats] Hummels, Hummels isn't a speedster," said Gehrig, referring to the Borussia Dortmund central defender who is questionable to play after picking up an injury against Portugal. "As a team, it's never one-v-one defensively. I think the back four works together, I think the midfield works together, and I think to counter that – a team that likes to go, a team that likes to run – that's what Portugal does. Look at Nani, look at Ronaldo: those guys are slashers and runners, and they didn't do anything [against Germany]. If they do what they did against Portugal – keep the ball and keep those runners frustrated – I think they'll be fine."
While Ghana is technically alive even if it does lose on Saturday, Baiden said his home nation needs a result.
"Get an early goal and defend throughout the game," said the Accra native. "Germany is a really good side. They are really good going forward. If we can get an early goal and defend well, that will give us a chance."