To paraphrase a tweet from this morning: The USA followed up a 2-2 loss to Portugal with a 0-1 “win” against Germany.
Of course, that isn’t exactly accurate – but considering what was at stake during each game, there is some truth behind that statement. By holding Germany to a single goal, the U.S. earned a tiebreaker over Portugal (which defeated Ghana 2-1 this morning) in order to advance out of Group G and into the Round of 16 for the second straight World Cup – the first time the Americans have done so in back-to-back World Cups.
Here are three takeaways from this morning’s 1-0 German victory over Team USA:
1. The U.S. is for real. Consider the obstacles that the Americans had to overcome simply to advance to the Round of 16:
-They were placed in the so-called “group of death” against a trio of powerful teams – Germany, Portugal and Ghana – that all advanced to the Round of 16 in 2010.
-One of their top players, forward Jozy Altidore, went down with a hamstring injury just 20 minutes into their opening World Cup match, and hasn’t played since.
-They had one fewer day of rest coming into this game than Germany had, after sweating in the jungle of Manaus, Brazil for 90-plus minutes on Sunday against Portugal.
-They have traveled more miles across Brazil in this World Cup than any of the 31 other countries have.
It’s not out of line to suggest that Team USA has overcome more in its first three World Cup matches than any other nation has. The furthest the U.S. has ever advanced at any World Cup was the quarterfinals in 2002 – but given the grit and determination that this team has shown thus far, it’s conceivable to think that it go as far, or even further, in this tournament.
2. No collusion. There proved to be nothing to the discussions throughout the week that both Germany and the USA would hold back a bit in order to play to a draw, which would ensure that both teams would advance out of group. The Germans took their foot off the gas in the final minutes, but until then, they tried to score early and often, attempting 13 shots, including six on goal.
And while they must have known in the game’s final minutes that they were through to the Round of 16 (secured by Portugal’s 2-1 win over Ghana), the Americans continued to seek an equalizing goal – and they nearly succeeded with a pair of late attempts, including a header by team captain Clint Dempsey that went just wide of the net. USA coach Jürgen Klinsmann has the U.S. playing better than it did in 2010, when it made it out of group but did so against far weaker opponents (England, Slovenia and Algeria).
3. An early look at the USA’s next game. The U.S. will face Belgium, which won Group H this afternoon, in its Round of 16 game on Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. on ESPN.
This is Belgium’s first World Cup appearance since 2002. Its deepest World Cup run came in 1986, when it finished fourth. The Belgians are the second-youngest team in the tournament (only Ghana is younger), but they’re a very sound defensive squad.
Belgium is led by center back and team captain Vincent Kompany, who also serves as team captain for Manchester City, which has won two of the last three championships in the English Premier League. Kompany is just one reason why cracking the Belgian defense will likely prove tricky for the USA on Tuesday.
Want more World Cup? Tune in for Saturday games on ABC15! We'll have Brazil vs. Chile at 8:30 a.m., plus Columbia vs. Uruguay at 12:30 p.m.