Cheating Death: USMNT lose to Germany, move on to Round of 16

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RECIFE, Brazil — The U.S. has found life in the Group of Death, though it didn’t always seem like they would.

Thomas Muller scored the lone goal in the 55th minute for a superb German side, capping off a dominant performance in a rain-soaked Arena Pernambuco. Despite the loss, the U.S. advance to the knockout rounds thanks in part to a 2-1 Portugal win over Ghana.

“It is huge for us getting out of this group,” head coach Jurgen Klinsmann told ESPN after the match. “Everyone said we had no chance. We took that chance and now we really want to move on. This is a huge, huge step and we can’t wait to get to the Round of 16.”

Germany finishes first, as expected, with seven points, while the U.S. takes the second spot with four. Portugal also finish with four points, but a -3 goal differential made their advancement a near impossibility. Ghana rounds out all teams with a single point at the bottom of the group.

Muller found the scoresheet on the end of a Tim Howard rebound. Defender Per Mertesacker slammed a header in on goal from a corner kick that the Everton man did well to swat it away. However, Muller was ready to collect the ball at the top of the box, taking a quick touch and snipe to the far post for the lead.

The U.S. would muster little response until the final minutes of the match. Both Clint Dempsey and Alejandro Bedoya earned looks in the box but could not test German netminder Manuel Neuer.

Overall, it was a dominant performance by a dangerous German side who certainly proved their worth as a favorite to win this World Cup. The U.S. could not muster control in the midfield, finishing the match with just 32% possession. They were outshot 13 to 4, unable to get a single attempt on target. Much of that German success can be attributed to Bastian Schweinsteiger, who proved an impossible puzzle, consistently winning duels and sparking counterattack situations through most of his 76 minutes of play.

Of course, head coach Joachim Löw’s pressing offense has to be credited as well. From the very first minute, the U.S. had little time to breathe under the onslaught. Arsenal striker Lukas Podolski created the first opportunity of the afternoon for Germany, but his volley went wide of net. Returning starter Omar Gonzalez enjoyed an outstanding match, saving the U.S. from a pair of key scoring opportunities in the first. Mezut Ozil had the best chance of the half, riding the U.S. defense into the box and forcing keeper Tim Howard to push away a shot to safety.

A gassed and bewildered U.S. side looked short of answers to begin the second half as well. Germany re-established possession and found goal just ten minutes in behind a relentless press and a pinpoint Muller shot.

Credit, of course, must be given to the U.S. defenders. Gonzalez and Matt Besler played a solid combination in the box, covering each other against a tidal wave of German attackers. Fabian Johnson and DaMarcus Beasley kept the wing-heavy offense honest while both Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones clogged lanes through the heart of the pitch.

By keeping the score close, even in a loss, the U.S. put the onus on Ghana to win big if they hoped to advance. A late-game Cristiano Ronaldo strike made certain that would not happen.

Now, destiny is once again in the hands of the U.S. Men’s National Team.

“We will analyze this game, say what we did wrong and take some of the good things we did,” Klinsmann said. “Whoever we face now, we are going to take it to them. For all the players it is a tremendous achievement. We will put the entire group stage behind us. Now that the group stage is done, another tournament starts and anything can happen in the knockout stage.”

The U.S. head to Bahia for their first Round of 16 encounter on July 1st. They await the winner of Group H which will either be a threatening Belgium side, or a familiar foe in Algeria.


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