Thomas Müller hammered home a rebound for Germany early in the second half to open the scoring, and Germany won the so-called “Group of Death” with a 1-0 victory over the United States on Thursday in a flooded Recife, Brazil.
But the United States and coach Jurgen Klinsmann also advanced, defying many of the pre-tournamnet doubters. The bad news: the United States is now in a bracket that will most likely include Belgium and, if the United States advances from that game, potentially Lionel Messi’s Argentina in the quarterfinals.
The United States advanced because Cristiano Ronaldo scored a second-half goal in Portugal’s game against Ghana to give Portugal a 2-1 lead, and Portugal hung on for the win to put the United States through based on goal differential. The United States and Portugal each finished with four points, but the United States had a better goal differential because they lost to Germany by one goal while Portugal lost to the Germans by four goals in a disastrous opener. The United States were even on goals while Portugal’s goal differential was -3.
Had the United States defeated Germany, they would have played the second-place team in the Belgium/Algeria group and could have been in line to face the winner of the France-Nigeria match in the quarterfinals. Now, if the United States wins in the knockout stage against the first-place finisher in the Belgium/Algeria group, they are likely to face Argentina, which plays Switzerland in their first match in the knockout round.
The tie in the Amazon jungle with Portugal on Sunday may come back to haunt the United States since they had to play their top stars in this game after a grueling — and gut-wrenching — battle on Sunday. Had the United States defeated Portugal on Sunday, they could have rested many of its top and wounded stars like Clint Dempsey and had them been at full strength for Tuesday’s game in the knockout round.