RECIFE, Brazil – So much for a gentleman's agreement. On a day when both teams could have eased into the Round of 16 with a draw, the United States and Germany battled fiercely and physically for first place in the Group of Death. The Americans got through to the next round, although surely not how they had planned after a 1-0 loss to Germany.
With a win, a tie and a loss, the Americans got through to the knockout round on goal differential as Portugal beat Ghana 2-1. The U.S. and Portugal both finished with four points in the group, but the Americans had a better goal differential (0) to Portugal's minus three.
"It is huge for us getting out of this group," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "Everyone said we had no chance. We took that chance and now we really want to move on.
"We should have created a bit more chances. That's something we have to improve on."
Though it was a loss, it felt like a win to the large American contingent among the 41,876 fans. When the Portugal score was posted on the big screen, the stadium erupted in U-S-A cheers. It's the first time in U.S. soccer history that the Americans have advanced to the Round of 16 in consecutive World Cups.
After 24 combined fouls and three shared yellow cards, Germany left Arena Pernambuco with the win and a first-place finish in Group G. The U.S. finished second in the group and will play the first-place team from Group H, likely Belgium, on Tuesday in Salvador. Germany plays the second-place team from Group H on Monday in Porto Alegre.
After the skies opened, the streets flooded, Germany also poured it on. In the first half, Germany dominated possession, 65% to 35%. After conjecture about a tie between friends – a tie would send both teams through to the Round of 16 – Germany showed there would be no such détente.
The Germans attacked from the start, only the continual heroics of U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard kept the game to a scoreless tie at the half. Germany finally connected in the 55th minute in a bit of ping pong. Howard made a terrific save, by punching the ball clear. Thomas Mueller was there to retrieve it with a punishing right-footed shot that landed low in the corner.
Klinsmann and Germany coach Joachim Low are close friends, but that didn't stop Germany from going full throttle. Low was Klinsmann's assistant when he coached Germany in the 2006 World Cup and the coaching staffs are close. There are five German-American players on the team – Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson, Timmy Chandler, John Brooks and Julian Green. All are the sons of U.S. servicemen. All were raised in Germany.
Afterwards, Klinsmann hugged many of Germany's players, and the scene played out like a happy family reunion.
Klinsmann praised Jones after the game. "He's a warrior. He showed that again. He's so important to the entire team. He has this never say die attitude."
Klinsmann began the game with two lineup surprises. After struggling against Portugal, including giving up a goal with an epic whiff, Geoff Cameron was sent to the bench. Omar Gonzalez started in his place at center back against Germany and acquitted himself well.
The Gonzalez addition was surprising since he hadn't started for the U.S. or the Los Angeles Galaxy since May 3 due to a knee injury and had played just one prior minute in this World Cup. At 6-5, he's the most imposing player on the backline and his size and strength matched Germany's physical play, as he kept his penchant for mental gaffes at bay.
Brad Davis replaced Alejandro Bedoya, who later came in as a second-half sub.
Contributing: Mike Foss, USA TODAY For the Win