USA advances to World Cup Sweet 16 despite loss to Germany
They heard about people back home watching during their lunch breaks, streaming on office computers or playing hooky with fellow fans. And then, as the bus pulled away from the hotel Thursday, the U.S. World Cup team was struck with an unusual sight.
Hundreds, maybe thousands of fans in red, white and blue, walking for miles around stalled cars through nearly hip-high water along streets and highways, making their way to the stadium to cheer them on.
"That kind of passion to root us on is what really helps drive us," defender Omar Gonzalez said. "Now we give them another game to go to."
No dramatic late goals in this one. Not even a win. But despite a 1-0 loss to Germany, the United States was good enough to advance to the knockout stage of consecutive World Cups for the first time and good enough to hold onto the national attention that soccer has finally grabbed in America.
"I'm getting emails from people who work at companies where the executives have called a three-hour break and put on giant screens," U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said. "All of this ... is pretty extraordinary, and that will build for the next few days."
Thomas Mueller scored off a rebound in the 55th minute to give Germany first place in Group C with seven points, but the Americans held onto second when Portugal defeated Ghana 2-1 in a game played simultaneously in Brasilia.
Two minutes after Mueller's goal, Asamoah Gyan tied the score, leaving the Black Stars one goal from tying the U.S. with four points and moving ahead on the second tiebreaker, goals scored. But then Cristiano Ronaldo put the Portuguese back ahead in the 80th, giving the Americans a little margin for error.
On the sideline, U.S. goalkeeper coach Chris Woods used his fingers to signal "2-1" to goalkeeper Tim Howard. But Howard was unsure which team was ahead.
"Then Woods gave the thumbs up — in our favor," Besler said.
Around the same time, the American fans behind the goal defended by Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer started cheering, having learned of Ronaldo's goal from whatever electronic device they had brought along.
"Kind of calmed me down the last five minutes a little bit," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said.
Portugal opened with a 4-0 loss to Germany and tied the U.S. 2-2 Sunday with a 95th-minute goal, so the U.S. had an even goal difference while the Portuguese were at minus three.
The Americans advance to a round-of-16 game Tuesday in Salvador against Belgium.
The U.S. started celebrating at the final whistle, 30 seconds before the other game ended. The script was similar to that of 2002, when the U.S. opened with a 3-2 win over Portugal, then tied South Korea 1-1 and lost to Poland 3-0. The Americans advanced 12 years ago because South Korea defeated the Portuguese on an 80th-minute goal.
Last weekend's game was seen by 24.7 million viewers on ESPN and Univision, and with online viewers included it was the most-watched soccer match in American history. This game kicked off at noon EDT, and ESPN said it online streaming application set a record with 1.7 million concurrent users for all programs.
Across America, fans and athletes — the next generation of kids — are turning into avid soccer supporters. San Francisco pitcher Tim Lincecum wore a U.S. jersey Wednesday after his no-hitter against San Diego and Adam Wainwright had the American flag painted on his face when he went out to stretch with his St. Louis teammates last weekend. Actor Will Ferrell came to Recife for Thursday's match.
"It translates into more fans, more casual fans, more kids that get turned onto the sport and may turn out to want to play," Gulati said.
Because of the heavy rain, the Americans' bus trip to the stadium took 50 minutes, twice the time it took to reach Saturday's training session. And because of the downpour, both teams weren't allowed to warm up on the field.
Some of the players' family and friends stayed at their hotel. Others' vehicles couldn't reach Arena Pernambuco, where rain fell throughout much of the game and there were scattered empty red seats.
U.S. captain Clint Dempsey said it was "in the back of your mind about your family not being able to make it to the game because of the traffic and everything, you just want to make sure that they're safe."
Germany scored when Mesut Ozil took a short corner kick, received a pass back and crossed to Per Mertesacker. His header was parried by Howard into the path of Mueller, who curled a right-footed shot from 18 yards inside the far post.
Germany had 63 percent possession and had nine shots on goal to one for the U.S.
Klinsmann hugged Germany coach Joachim Loew — his assistant coach on Germany's 2006 World Cup team — and Brad Davis raised both hands after the final whistle and led the applauding U.S. team to the side of the stadium where the majority of American supporters sat.
The victory was especially satisfying for a pair of American players: midfielder Jermaine Jones played three games for Germany in 2008 before switching allegiances and right back Fabian Johnson started for Germany in the 2009 European Under-21 Championship final.
Jones thought back to a Times Square rally last month when former national team players Alexi Lalas and Taylor Twellman, now ESPN broadcasters, predicted the Americans would not advance.
"We showed some people," he said, "people that were talking like we have no chance to come through to the next round."
GERMANY GETS BETTER OF TEAM USA, BUT BOTH TEAMS ADVANCE
BY NESHA STARCEVIC, Associated Press
RECIFE, Brazil — Joachim Loew and Jurgen Klinsmann shook hands, smiled and patted each on the shoulders, like the two good friends they are. The two coaches had every reason to be pleased: both of their teams advanced to the knockout stage of the World Cup.
Loew’s Germany beat Klinsmann’s United States 1-0 thanks to Thomas Mueller’s fourth goal of the tournament and the outcome allowed both teams to advance. Portugal beat Ghana 2-1 in the other Group G match but both were eliminated.
A draw would have been enough as well, and it had been the matter of much conjecture before Thursday’s match at the rain drenched Arena Pernambuco. But neither team held back and both attacked, although Germany was clearly in control.
“Well, first I asked him (Klinsmann) for the result of the other match. I didn’t know that and he also told me they advanced and I told him, I’m happy,” Loew said.
“That is a tough group and the Americans were a bit the outsiders. Everybody considered Portugal a favorite to make it. ... (The Americans) really have qualities, they fight, they can run and they really are tough on the opponent. If you beat Ghana, play a draw against Portugal, I think you deserve to make it to the next round.”
Germany, a three-time champion, now travels to Porto Alegre to play the runner-up in Group H on June 30. The Americans play the winner of that group on July 1 in Salvador.
“It’s a good feeling because now it’s really just a clear picture for everyone. Just focus on that one opponent you have for that next game. ... We’ll just talk about one team to beat at a time and this is why I’m really excited” about this next phase, Klinsmann said.
Klinsmann was Loew’s predecessor and made him his assistant, until Klinsmann quit following Germany’s third-place finish at the 2006 World Cup at home. Loew then took over and is still looking for his first major title.
Klinsmann also warmly embraced Germany players, some of whom got their start under him. Mueller got his Bundesliga debut in August 2008 when Klinsmann was the coach of Bayern Munich.
Klinsmann must have had a good nose for talent, since Mueller is on track to retain his Golden Boot title by scoring his fourth goal of the tournament, to go with five he had in 2010.
Germany’s goal came in the 55th minute after a corner by Mesut Ozil. U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard did well to punch out a header by Per Mertesacker but pushed the ball into the path of Mueller who rifled a shot inside the far post from the edge of the penalty area.
“We clearly dominated the match and we played not a bad game against a top-fit American team,” Mueller said. “I finally scored a pretty goal. I manage it every now and then. We’re all terribly ambitious and this ambition can take us very far and I try to give my part in each and every match.”
Mueller played despite needing five stiches to close a cut above his right eye sustained in the 2-2 draw with Ghana on Saturday and still visible five days later.
The United States had a chance to level the match in stoppage time, but Alejandro Bedoya’s low shot inside the box was swept away by the sliding Mario Goetze, a late substitute. The Americans won a corner but Clint Dempsey’s header at the far post went high.
“We knew it would be a difficult match today. We were ready for that. We controlled the match and did not allow any chances until late in the match,” Loew said. “We failed to score a second goal that would have settled the issue earlier.”