Although the USA lost to Germany 1-0 in Recife, Brazil, it survived the dreaded “Group of Death” and advanced to the World Cup knockout round Thursday by virtue of Portugal’s 2-1 victory over Ghana. The U.S., reaching the knockout round for the third time, will play Belgium at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
“I’m very happy with our team,” said U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann. “We have a tight group. We can do better and we must do better. We will do better.”
Although ceding Germany a majority of the touches, USA found itself in a scoreless tie until the 55th minute when Thomas Mueller rocketed a second-chance goal, struck side-footed, past U.S. goalie Tim Howard, who had no chance of thwarting Mueller’s shot.
Mueller’s winning goal was preceded by a shot that Howard blocked. Mueller was in the exactly the right position to collect the rebound and score. It marked Mueller’s fourth goal of the tournament and ninth in nine career World Cup matches.
The U.S., scoring four points in group play, had two major scoring opportunities in the 93rd minute, including one by the Sounders’ Clint Dempsey, but both shots sailed wide.
“It was a tough game in tough conditions,” said Howard, referring to an hours-long drenching rain. “We had a chance there at the end. But we are going to the round of 16 and it shows how far (U.S. soccer) come. We still have a little bit left in us.”
Germany controlled the run of play throughout. The Germans had 83 percent of the touches in the first half and 64 percent for the match vs. 36 percent for the Americans. Until stoppage time, USA didn’t come close to scoring a goal, finishing with one shot on goal and four shots overall to nine shots on goal for Germany.
“I think Germany has to be one of the top four or five favorites to win the World Cup,” said Klinsmann. “For our players, this was a tremendous achievement. We can’t wait to get started on the next round.”
The USA advanced because it did enough over its three matches to outscore Portugal and Ghana in group play.
“It’s great to advance out of our group,” said Dempsey. “We would have liked a result today, but in the end we did enough to get through. We always believed we could get out of this group if we played well. Our players believed. Today, Germany had most of the possession and we just weren’t as sharp as we needed to be in order to get a goal.”
Dempsey suffered a blow to his broken nose in the 72nd minute, but played on. DeAndre Yedlin of the Sounders came on in the 83rd minute, his second appearance of the tournament.