U.S. loses but still off to Round of 16

Omar Gonzalez of the U.S. reacts after their 2014 World Cup Group G soccer match against Germany at...

Omar Gonzalez of the U.S. reacts after their 2014 World Cup Group G soccer match against Germany at the Pernambuco arena in Recife June 26, 2014. (REUTERS/Tony Gentile)

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:12 PM ET

RECIFE, BRAZIL - The Americans are proof there's life after death.

For a few minutes Thursday, the team, the entire country held its collective breath.

Down a goal to Germany here at Arena Pernambuco, the U.S. turned its attention to another Group of Death thriller, where 10 minutes from time they were hoping for a saviour.

When Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo made it 2-1 against Ghana in Brasilia, the U.S. breathed a little easier.

"We were informed (it was 2-1 Portugal)," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann admitted after losing to Germany. "It made the final five minutes a little (easier)."

Had Ghana managed to produce a second-half winner, the Yanks -- following a 1-0 defeat here Thursday -- wouldn't have advanced from Group G in Recife.

In a sluggish match featuring flood-like conditions, news of Ronaldo's late tally slowly began circulating the venue after Thomas Mueller's world-class winner saw the Yanks narrowly avoid disaster.

"It's a huge achievement by our team to come through that group," Klinsmann said despite the loss. "Nobody would have believed it."

As German bench boss Joachim Loew said post-game: "If you beat Ghana and draw Portugal, you deserve to advance."

Even if it was ugly.

A last-gasp win against Ghana and an unlucky draw against Portugal put the U.S. in position to advance on the final day of round-robin play.

"Everyone considered Portugal to make it," Loew said. "(The Americans) have qualities. They have players who have improved technically."

Coming into Thursday's match, Klinsmann, who once hired Loew as his assistant, addressed questions surrounding collusion.

"We knew it would be tricky because a tie was enough (for both teams)," Klinsmann said. "It wasn't easy to handle it mentally. We had too much respect early."

Talk of ties quickly went away in the minutes following the first whistle.

The Germans wasted no time stamping their authority on the game, out-passing the U.S. tenfold through the first few minutes.

Klinsmann's decision to start centre back Omar Gonzalez ahead of Geoff Cameron nearly backfired minutes after the start when the L.A. Galaxy defender whiffed on a clearance.

But the Yanks, as was their game plan, survived the opening quarter-hour, sitting comfortably in a deep-lying 4-1-4-1 to hold off the World Cup favourites.

"We were ready for a difficult match," Loew said. "I would have liked to have had the team a bit more active."

In other words, the German manager didn't like facing a side that didn't test them all over the pitch.

Other than a long-distance effort from Graham Zusi, the Americans produced very little in terms of quality going forward as they were happy to settle for zeroes, especially in rainy conditions.

"The conditions were difficult for both teams, but the pitch was surprisingly good," Klinsmann offered. "We both had the same conditions."

Then came the second-half, when things nearly slowed to a standstill after the Germans went a goal up in the 55th minute.

With the U.S. holding the fort in search of a goalless finish, a save from American 'keeper Tim Howard fell to Thomas Mueller along the edge of the area.

The 2010 Golden Boot winner, who netted his fourth of the tournament, was clinical on his second touch, bending the ball through traffic and into the side netting.

"He's in great shape," Loew said of his first-choice striker. "You get the impression it's so easy for him."

At that point, with the water-logged Yanks struggling to hang on, most here in the press area turned their attention to Brasilia, where at that time Ghana had come from a goal down to make things interesting.

With final group games being played simultaneously, news of Ronaldo's late goal eventually made its way up to this coastal city.

Had Portugal not already been blown out 4-0 by Germany, the Ronaldo-led Iberians might have had a chance to progress.

"I think we were the dominating team during the entire match," Loew insisted. "We had good organization and good setup until the last moment."

When American winger Alejandro Bedoya's right boot met a cross at the back post, only to see a sliding German defender knock the ball out for a corner.

On the ensuing set piece, U.S. forward Clint Dempsey nearly equalized but his header sailed over.

"Whoever we face (in the next round), we're going to take it to them," Klinsmann said. "It's an achievement, but now we really get started."

Yet again, the U.S., against the odds, has found a way to advance at a major tournament -- the third time they've progressed over the last four World Cups.

"(The U.S.) can fight," Loew said post-game. "They can run. They are tough."

Even in the face of death.

Not to discredit the U.S., but that still leaves the Germans, who look unstoppable in this tournament.

*Muller goal GIF via @myregularface of GIFgoldmine.com


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