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Christiano Ronaldo and Portugal deliver a gift to USA in the form of a 2-1 victory over Ghana.
In most other competitions around the world, 1-0 on the scoreboard means the team without points is defeated. But in the group stage of FIFA’s World Cup, things aren’t always as they seem. By virtue of a 1-1-1 record, the USMNT will advance into the knockout round to face either Belgium or Algeria on Tuesday July 1, at 4 pm (eastern time, live on ESPN). While the U.S. didn’t dominate on its path to the round of 16, the team had enough life in it to defeat Ghana, tie Portugal, and eventually fall short against a tough German squad. A win or tie against Germany would have been impressive, but putting our pride aside, America can be thankful for Thursday’s turnout.
Though Portugal owns the same record as the Americans, a stunning 4-0 loss to Germany in the first match put the Portuguese into a point-differential hole that was nearly impossible to overcome. Now, two teams emerge from the so-called “Group of Death” alive: Germany (No. 1) and the United States (No. 2). It’s the first time in World Cup history that the Americans have qualified for the knockout round in consecutive tournaments. Jurgen Klinsmann will lead Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, and the rest of the troops of the USMNT into its next battle, this time a do-or-die affair.
Belgium and Algeria will certainly be trying their hardest to win their upcoming games this afternoon. The team who wins the group will face the United States, while the runner-up gets Germany next round. No offense to the USMNT, but the Belgians and Algerians would much rather face a dangerous USA team than the fearsome German squad.
Algeria can steal the 1 spot with a crushing win over Russia and a Belgian loss, but could also fail to advance with a loss and a low point-differential. Belgium plays South Korea later today in what should surely be an intense 90-minutes. The Korean Republic is fighting for survival, while Belgium is attempting to shake off the rust that’s been apparently bothersome in its last two competitions. If the match between Germany and the USA proves anything, it shows that few relevant teams in this World Cup are complacent with a draw. If you’re trying to get a preview of the next opponent for the United States, you can check out these games later in the afternoon.
Belgium v. South Korea, 4 p.m. (eastern time) on ESPN
Algeria v. Russia, 4 p.m. (eastern time) on ESPN2
Regardless of the outcome in Group H, Germany and the United States have split sides of the bracket, meaning the only potential rematch between those two squads would come in a championship confrontation. A win in the next match over Algeria or Belgium would then mean that either Argentina or Switzerland becomes the U.S.’s new focus on July 5th. It’s too early to look ahead though. We were lucky enough to escape our group. The United States did what was necessary to survive, but in order to thrive in the 2014 World Cup the Americans must step up their game a notch or two. Ghana, Portugal, and Germany posed unique challenges of their own. As time goes on, the tournament’s remaining teams get more disciplined, skilled, and hungry for a championship. On July 1, we’ll see if the United States has the qualities it takes to make a run at the cup.