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U.S. survives group of death. Lots of work to do for the Yanks

by J.C. Velez
Jun 26, 2014 5:27 PM EDT



A collective sigh of relief was shared among U.S. supporters across the nation as Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first goal of the tournament versus Ghana in the 80th minute. The U.S. Men's National Team now had to hold their result to advance to the round of 16 and upset the footballing world.
Even though the Americans were down 1-0 against Germany, they would emerge from the death group almost everyone had them being eliminated from.

How did the U.S. accomplish such a great feat? In a group with perennial African contender Ghana, a Cristiano Ronaldo led Portugal, and the ever competitive, always dangerous Germany, it can certainly be considered an upset. The road to the last 16 was not an easy one for Jurgen Klinsmann's troops.
Aside from the arduous travel schedule and wild weather in Brazil this time of year, the competition would prove to be a test of all sorts for the Americans. The first match against Ghana proved that good football definitely does not guarantee a win. After a Clint Dempsey wonder goal in the first thirty seconds of the match, and an unfortunate Jozy Altidore injury, the U.S. had their backs against the ropes the entire match. Ghana played superbly.Creating chance, after chance, after chance. The United States looked out of sorts in defense, and any offensive charge was quickly dispatched by an aggressive Ghana midfield. But it was until the 82nd minute that Ghana equalized on a brilliant play and great finish by Andrew Ayew. A match winning goal was imminent, but it would not be the attacking side. The U.S. mustered up a counter attack, creating a corner kick that was heroically converted by young defender John Brooks. Ultimately taking the final wind out of Ghana's sails.
The required result had been attained. The three points had been collected and combined with a German thrashing of Portugal, the red, white, and blue were in a very positive position. But vast improvement was imperative.

Next up were the injury-ridden Portuguese side that were looking to recover from a tough loss to the Germans. Fabio Coentrao and Pepe, the heart and soul of the Portuguese defense were unavailable. And with Ronaldo was dealing with tendinitis in his knee, the circumstances were looking to be in favor of the U.S.
Once again though, the Americans would have to dig themselves out of a whole after a severe defensive error was pounced upon by Nani in the 5th minute. The U.S. was a little more proactive in attack but shared offensive opportunities with Portugal and went to the half still down by one. Portugal looked to hold its lead and within a 15 minute stretch lost its lead with a two goal turnaround courtesy of a superb Jermaine Jones strike and a Clint Dempsey stomach tap in. The United States was headed towards its second victory and a guaranteed spot in the next round.
But not if Cristiano Ronaldo had anything to say about the matter. The flailing Portuguese star and captain provided a lethal cross to the heart of the area where Varela put a header past Tim Howard for the equalizer and the latest recorded goal in World Cup history.

U.S.qualification would have to wait one more match. And this game, was against the Germans. An American loss and a Ghana victory would see the African side through, and the best side in CONCACAF play would be eliminated. Offensive ineptitude and defensive collapses could not be a factor against a German side that provides little mercy.

After one half of play, a Ghana own goal and a goalless tie with Germany had the Yanks advancing. Yet, after play resumed, Germany went up 1-0 and Ghana tied things up with Portugal. Ghana was just one goal away from qualification. Luckily, Ghana goalkeeper Dauda made a fatal error in putting a rogue header back in play that fell to the feet of CR7 who promptly slotted the ball into the net. A goal that reassured the U.S. would continue on.
The slash line for the Americans in the group stage was one victory, one draw, and one defeat. 4 goals in favor, 4 goals against.

If the Yanks want to keep their improbable run with continuing their mediocre play, they will not go very far. They showed some defensive discipline against Germany, but their offense has lacked purpose and goal scoring chances have been scarce. The Jurgen Klinsmann project will need to step up in big ways as they await their next rival, which will most likely be a deeply talented Belgium side.

If the Red, White, and Blue put in the proper work, the desired results just may follow.