FINAL SCORE: Germany 1, United States 0 (Muller 55')
Well. Job done. Thanks to Ronaldo, sort of.
There was no handshake agreement to play to a draw, as Germany came out gunning from the opening minute. The European side put the United States under siege immediately, getting wide-open spaces down the flank for crosses. Tim Howard was forced to dive and intercept a couple of crosses, while Omar Gonzalez also made a couple of desperation tackles and clearances. Meanwhile, Portugal went up 1-0 on Ghana after an own goal from the African team.
Things looked comfortable heading into halftime. If things stayed the same, the United States was clean through.
And then that suddenly became very, very nervous.
Germany began the second half similar to the first, attacking the United States down the flanks and looking to cross into the middle. Miroslav Klose came on for Germany, and made an immediate impact, finding space in the U.S. box. Then Thomas Muller scored in the 55th minute for Germany, after Tim Howard's diving save sent the ball right to him.
And then Ghana scored to tie the match.
The United States was still through, but one more Ghana goal would have sent the U.S. packing. Portugal looked tired, the United States looked tired, while Germany and Ghana looked likely to get another goal apiece. It was time for butterflies and nervous shaking.
No chances seemed to be coming for the U.S. -- so the hero everyone expected emerged: Ronaldo. The world's best -- or second-best -- player finally scored for Portugal, putting them up 2-1 on Ghana.
The United States had some chances in added time, as DeAndre Yedlin made an impact as a sub, but they couldn't find the back of the net. It ended up not mattering, as Ghana couldn't score again.
We lose, but advance.
Job done. See you in the knockout round.
FINAL: The United States has advanced to the knockout stage.
90' + 3 -- The United States gets its two best chances of the match. One on a counter attack that fell to Bedoya, but Phillipp Lahm's sliding challenge stopped it. Then the ensuing cross fell to Dempsey, but his header went over.
90' -- Four minutes of stoppage time.
89' -- Germany sub.
- IN: Andre Schurrle
- OUT: Mesut Ozil
88' -- Beasley had a promising run down the left flank, but it was called back for a foul on Thomas Muller.
85' -- The U.S. looked threatening, but Dempsey and Bedoya weren't on the same page and Dempsey's pass was behind Bedoya outside the Germany box.
84' -- Yedlin makes an impact immediately, making a run to the end line to cross, but his ball sails well over anyone.
83' -- United States sub.
- IN: DeAndre Yedlin
- OUT: Graham Zusi
81' -- RONALDO! Portugal takes a 2-1 lead. The United States has some breathing room now.
77' -- Both Jones and Bedoya look fine after the collision.
76' -- Germany sub.
- IN: Mario Gotze
- OUT: Bastian Schweinsteiger
74' -- Jermaine Jones and Alejandro Bedoya collide a few yards outside the Germany box, and both players went down holding their jaws and heads. Bedoya is up, while Jones waived the physios on.
Um, nope, not good. pic.twitter.com/EEiszDVwNF— World of Isaac (@WorldofIsaac) June 26, 2014
72' -- Dempsey and Mats Hummels involved in a headed challenge in Germany's defensive third, and Dempsey went down holding his nose. Remember, he suffered a broken nose in the opening match against Ghana.
71' -- Graham Zusi's corner kick hits the first man of the Germany defense, who clears it away easily. That could have been the big U.S. chance.
68' -- The United States has some very heavy legs right now. The counterattacks are slower, closing down Germany in the center of the pitch has been more difficult, etc.
68' -- Ghana and Portugal still level at 1-1.
64' -- Another Jermaine Jones run up the middle of the pitch forces Manuel Neuer to come out about 35 yards to clear it.
62' -- BOOKED! Kyle Beckerman gets a yellow for his challenge on Bastian Schweinsteiger.
59' -- United States sub.
- IN: Alejandro Bedoya
- OUT: Brad Davis
57' -- And another goal in the Portugal-Ghana match, but this one goes to Ghana. Portugal 1, Ghana 1.
As it stands, the United States still advance -- but another goal from Ghana makes things very nervous.
55' -- GOAL: Tim Howard makes a diving save on Per Mertesacker's header, but his punch goes right to Thomas Muller, who buries it far post, out of the reach of Howard.
Germany goal: http://t.co/6Dlxw3x8U2— Steph (@myregularface) June 26, 2014
52' -- Miroslav Klose has a clear header with no defenders near him, but the ball is a bit strong and he knocks it harmlessly wide.
50' -- Omar Gonzalez has been excellent through the first 50 minutes. There were plenty of questions regarding his inclusion in the starting XI before the game, replacing Geoff Cameron, but he's saved the U.S. on at least three occasions. A couple of desperation sliding clearances and then the challenge moments ago on Ozil's header.
47' -- Excellent recovery by Omar Gonzalez on a Jerome Boateng cross, forcing Mesut Ozil's header to sail over the net. (vine via @TopDrawerSoccer)
46' -- Germany sub.
- IN: Miroslav Klose
- OUT: Lukas Podolski
Klose makes his living as a poacher, scoring goals inside the box. Germany clearly not settling for a 0-0 draw.
No changes for the U.S.
HALFTIME: United States 0, Germany 0.
If this result holds, both teams would advance.
The United States started under an absolute siege from Germany, with the European side getting wide-open cross seemingly every minute. The U.S. was playing with at least 10 men behind the ball at all times, and couldn't control possession. A couple of impressive stops by Tim Howard and clearances from Omar Gonzalez prevented any goals from Germany, though, and things began to settle down. The United States did't get many clear chances, with Graham Zusi sending one over the bar and then seeing his corner kick sail past any target.
Meanwhile, Portugal leads Ghana, 1-0.
45' -- Michael Bradley loses possession (again), but recovers in time to tackle Thomas Muller. No yellow card given, although Bradley came in studs-up.
41' -- Graham Zusi's corner kick sails over everyone and bounces away from a goal kick.
39' -- Another dangerous cross, this time from Lukas Podolski. Howard has to dive to prevent it from getting it to Thomas Muller.
38' -- BOOKED! Omar Gonzalez gets a yellow card for his tackle on Bastian Schweinsteiger.
35' -- Ozil gets some space inside the box, but kicks it on the ground right at Howard. Good save. It's parried away and cleared. (Vine via @WorldSoccerTalk)
33' -- Jermaine Jones can't control a beautiful lofted ball from Michael Bradley. He would have been in one-on-one against Manuel Neuer.
31' -- OWN GOAL FOR GHANA! Portugal up 1-0.
29' -- Jermaine Jones and the referee just collided at the edge of the box on Fabian Johnson's cross attempt. Impressive by the ref to stay on his feet, but he should book himself for the takedown.
jermaine jones collide with the ref http://t.co/a4QMcNQcIy— Steph (@myregularface) June 26, 2014
28' -- The United States has settled down somewhat, getting better possession, while Germany's onslaught of dangerous crosses have also been limited the last few minutes.
24' -- Portugal and Ghana still scoreless. Ronaldo missed a point-blank header from about five yards out.
22' -- Graham Zusi has a chance after a Jermaine Jones-led counterattack, but it goes over the bar.
21' -- Brad Davis and Graham Zusi have switched sides. Davis was struggling to track back and mark Boateng, but Zusi is a more eager defender. Should limit the wide-open crossing chances for Germany.
18' -- The rain has clearly had an impact on play, with the ball moving slowly across the pitch and some awkward skips confusing defenders. A wet pitch likely gives the advantage to attackers, while the unpredictable bounces can really increase the chances of a misplay by a defender or goalkeeper.
14' -- Omar Gonzalez clears yet another dangerous cross from Germany.
13' -- The U.S. had its first extended stretch of possession, knocking the ball around for about a minute. But Clint Dempsey was dispossessed and had to make a professional foul to stop the counterattack.
11' -- BOOKED! Benedikt Howedes gets a yellow card for his challenge on Fabian Johnson.
10' -- The communication in the box for the United States has been awful so far. Germany is getting free crosses nearly every thrust forward.
8' -- A very dangerous cross by Lukas Podolski forces a diving stop from Tim Howard. The movement by the Germany attacking band has been excellent so far.
7' -- We'll be giving periodic updates from the Portugal-Ghana match, since it directly impacts the U.S. And Cristiano Ronaldo just hit one of the crossbar.
5' -- Jerome Boateng volleys a beautiful ball from Bastian Schweinsteiger, but it bounces right to Tim Howard.
2' -- Germany already testing the U.S. backline. Thomas Muller misses the volley and Lukas Podolski rockets one over the net.
1' -- The ball is moving very slowly across the pitch right now. Saturated from the rain and flooding.
Pregame: Lineups are announced.
The United States staying in the 4-2-3-1, with Dempsey as the line striker. Brad Davis and Omar Gonzalez make their first starts, with Davis coming in for Alejandro Bedoya, and Gonzalez entering for Geoff Cameron, who struggled against Portugal. With Davis and Zusi, the U.S. should have excellent service from the wings.
Mario Gotze starts on the bench for Germany on Thursday, with Lukas Podolski starting. The defense is unchanged, and I think the U.S. can take advantage of Benedikt Howedes at left back. Bastian Schweinsteiger starts instead of Semi Khedira in a defensive midfielder role.
USA vs. Germany (Group G) | Kickoff: 6/26, 12 p.m. ET | Stadium: Pernambuco, Recife
Match Preview: Oh, the storylines. Jurgen Klinsmann vs. his home country. The contingent of German-American dual-nationals on the United States roster. The possibility of a mutually-advantageous draw.
Had you told United States fans that they would be entering the final game of the group stage with a chance to win the group, most would have taken it. One point against Germany and the U.S. will have locked up a spot in the knockout stage. Before the World Cup, that seemed ideal. Instead, many U.S. supporters will look at this match very differently.
And it's all because of the very late goal by Portugal on Sunday that changed a 2-1 United States win to a 2-2 draw. One point instead of three points. Combine it with Germany only getting a draw against Ghana over the weekend, and there is plenty to be nervous about heading into Thursday.
First, let's look at the scenarios. If the United States defeats Germany, it will win Group G. If either Group G game -- U.S. vs. Germany or Portugal vs. Ghana -- ends in a draw, the U.S. and Germany will advance.
If the U.S. loses on Thursday, then the tiebreakers could come into play. A Portugal victory against Ghana would be better for the U.S., as it has to overcome a five-goal gap in goal differential. If Ghana beats Portugal, it would be more concerning for the U.S. The United States would need a one-goal Ghana victory in which the African side doesn't score two more goals than the United States. It sounds a little confusing, for sure, but it's all very simple as long as the United States earns at least one point on Thursday.
Second, what about the much-discussed possibility that Klinsmann and Germany manager Joachim Low will reach some sort of wink-wink, nudge-nudge handshake agreement that sees both teams knock the ball around for 90 minutes and advance? After all, that's all either team needs to reach the next ground. I don't think there's a straight yes or no to that question -- as I think it will fall somewhere in the gray area. Neither the United States nor Germany will go into Thursday thinking it's going to be a 0-0 game. With that said, if it's tied entering the final 30 minutes, I wouldn't be surprised to see both teams take the foot of the gas a little bit and see the game out.
Now, for the actual game? Does the United States have a shot to beat Germany, or at least get a point? Two of Germany's biggest weaknesses thus far have been at left back and in central midfield. Benedikt Howedes has been poor so far for Germany, and while it's not his natural position, he was consistently outplayed by Ghana's Christian Atsu on Saturday. Meanwhile, Phillip Lahm has seemed a bit off in the first two matches. Arguably the best outside back in the world, Lahm has been playing the same holding midfielder role he played this past season for Bayern Munich -- and it hasn't been great. He's lost the ball a couple of times, leading to clear chances for both Portugal and Ghana. Coincidentally, that plays into the United States' hands. Fabian Johnson has been extremely dangerous down the right flank this month, making overlapping runs from his right back position. Combine Howedes' performance with Mario Gotze not tracking back consistently, and Johnson could have space once again. Moreover, the United States could get chances on the counter if it can dispossess Lahm and Semi Khedira in the middle of the pitch. Both things worked for Ghana.
On the other side, the United States' defense and possession will be key. They were on their back foot most of the match against Ghana, but controlled the match against Portugal after the opening 20 minutes. I think this one will be more like the Ghana match -- but the United States can't simply absorb pressure for 85 minutes. Germany will make the United States pay, with finishers like Thomas Muller and playmakers like Gotze, Mesut Ozil and Toni Kroos. The communication of Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler will be important on Thursday.
The United States needs to keep Germany at bay for 90 minutes, which is nearly impossible, so getting an early goal would be huge for the U.S.