Despite loss to Germany, U.S. advances to World Cup knockout round.
By Robert Wagman
(Thursday, June 26, 2014) -- Despite losing its final FIFA World Cup Group G match 1-0 to Germany, before 41,876 rain-soaked fans at Arena Pernambuco in Recife, Brazil, the United States men advanced to the Round of 16 thanks to Portugal defeating Ghana 2-1.
Germany won the group at 2-0-1 with seven points, The U.S. and Portugal tied at 1-1-1 with four points, but the Americans advanced on its even goal differential, while Portugal was minus-three.
For the first time, the U.S. advanced to the knockout round of consecutive World Cups. It faces Belgium Tuesday at Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador at 4 p.m. (ET). The game will be televised by ESPN and Spanish-lanuage Univision and Univision Deportes.
“Before this tournament started, no one was talking that America can come to the next round,” U.S. midfielder Jermaine Jones said. “It was always Portugal and Germany. We showed people that we have a good team and we have a good atmosphere in the group.
“Everything that the coach did before the tournament, who he sent home and who he took for the team, I think was a good decision. The team showed heart and gave good feedback. Now for the next game, it’s the same tough game like Germany. (Belgium has) a lot of experienced players, good players from different good clubs. It’s a knockout game and we have to see it like final.”
This afternoon’s game was completely dominated by Germany in terms of time of possession, while Germany managed six shots on goal to one by the U.S. Without creating any danger on the German goal, the Americans were able to hold Germany close behind solid goalkeeping by Tim Howard and multiple last-second clearances from a determined back-line. A retreating midfield provided plenty of help.
German keeper Manuel Neuer was not called on for a save. Only in stoppage time, did the Americans put a shot on target, but defender Phillip Lahm blocked Bedoya’s attempt.
This was not a game of strategy or formations. It was like a throwback match where, against a superior European opponent, the U.S. defended and defended, simply holding on for dear life. According to FIFA stats, Germany completed 725 passes to 363 for the U.S., holding possession for 63 percent of the time.
One major lineup change made by U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann, was the insertion of Omar Gonzalez to central defense in place of Geoff Cameron. Once he settled in, Gonzalez made several key stops and was especially useful against balls floated into the penalty area. At one point, he took a Jerome Boateng cross off the head of Mesut Ozil and deflected it over the his own crossbar, clearly saving a goal.
Klinsmann also replaced Alejandro Bedoya, who started in the first two games in midfield, with Brad Davis. Davis is a crossing and corner-kick specialist, but the Americans had few opportunities for either.
Given the complexities of the math in group and the soggy condition of the field after eight hours of torrential rains that left the city under several feet of water, both teams could well have been forgiven if they had walked through this match, but both sides gave 100 hundred percent all the way to the final moments of stoppage time.
Deep into the added time, the U.S. had its best chance to level the match. On a quick counter, Bedoya, who replaced Davis in the 59th minute, triggered a low shot inside the box, but it was swept away by the sliding Mario Götze. The reserve German defender ran a good 60 yards to get in position.
The U.S. received a corner kick, but the feed was too high and striker Clint Dempsey’s went over the crossbar.
This exchange exemplified the effort expended by both teams, who were competing full out, even in stoppage time.
Germany’s goal in the 55th minute after Howard made a great save, but could not stop the rebound. Mesut Özil’s corner kick resulted in a sharp header from Per Mertesacker. Howard made a quick diving save with a punch into his right side of the box. The ball went to unmarked striker Thomas Müller at the top corner of the 18-yard box for a perfectly-hit right-footer that caught the top right corner of the net.
It was Müller’s fourth goal in the opening three matches, his ninth striker in nine career World Cup appearances.
"We were dominant," Müller said. "All the Americans did was sit back deep in their own half and when that happens, it just becomes a patience game. But sometimes, even I manage to have a bright idea, I spend the whole day training like I'm obsessed anyway."
Germany was by far the better team and by played a much better game, but that is almost beside the point. The U.S. held on and on and, while it generated almost no attack, it did enough to advance out of the so-called “Group of Death.” The Americans did what they had to.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Tim Howard - 7: Came up big on several occasions and did just about all one could expect a keeper to do. He cannot be blamed on the goal after making a fine stop on the initial shot. He didn’t have time to direct the rebound better.
Defender DaMarcus Beasley - 6.5: This was probably his best match of the three group matches. He used his pace very well, getting forward on occasion, and then back to defend. Was put under pressure early, but held up well despite needing help at times..
Defender Matt Besler - 6: A steady game. Was not at all showy, but that speaks to his having become a dependable back-liner, one the U.S. can count on match in and match out.
Defender Omar Gonzalez - 6.5: . Aside from an early missed clearance attempt, when he flubbed Jerome Boateng's cross and nearly put it in his own net, he played probably his best game in a U.S. jersey. Was the most valuable U.S. defender.
Defender Fabian Johnson - 6: He might as well have been another offensive midfielder as he continued to roam far forward. Occasionally he had trouble getting back, but teammates provided good cover. He continues to be a big positive.
Midfielder Michael Bradley - 5: He looked like he was just spinning his wheels. He tried to add to the offense, he had little success. So he moved back on defense and sent Jones forward.
Midfielder Jermaine Jones -7.5: For the third straight match, he was the best American. He tried little success in his forays into the attack, but made many stops in the middle.
Midfielder Kyle Beckerman - 6: Steady and that is what you want in a defensive midfielder. His partner, be it Jones or Bradley, can push forward knowing they have cover in the back.
Midfielder Brad Davis - 4: Was inserted for corner kicks and crosses, but didn’t have very many. He had little impact on the match before he was finally pulled.
Midfielder Graham Zusi - 6: Played strong defense and, for a while, was the main U.S. offensive threat, but he clearly slowed as the match continued and was ready to come out.
Forward Clint Dempsey - 5.5: Against a world-class defense, especially one with the size and strength of Germany’s, he could do little without receiving much service. He forced himself into position on several occasions, but his efforts came to little.
Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya (59th minute for Davis) - 5.5: He had been benched because of a poor outing against Portugal. He actually did better today against Germany in his reduced role.
Defender/midfielder DeAndre Yedlin (84th minute for Zusi) - 5: He was put in to bring fresh legs into the match, but he made little effect..
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Jermaine Jones.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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