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World Cup Roundup: Despite loss, U.S. advances

Despite a hard-fought loss to Germany, the U.S. advanced to the knockout stage
06/26/2014 9:51 PM ET
By Grant Tunkel

Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley celebrate after the U.S. advanced to the knockout stage Thursday.(AP)
Any inkling of an unspoken agreement between the United States and Germany to play for a draw Thursday went out the window quickly.

The first 10 minutes in rain-soaked Recife featured German possession -- and plenty of it. The U.S. rarely saw the ball and were forced to defend from the opening whistle.

In the end, the Americans fell, 1-0. But it was good enough to advance to the Round of 16, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal aiding the cause via a 2-1 victory over Ghana.

After the opening 10 minutes, the U.S. found their stride and gained some of the ball. Still, the American defense was called into action early and often. Omar Gonzalez, who started in central defense in place of Geoff Cameron, played a strong 90 minutes and defended well inside the area.

But Germany controlled nearly two-thirds of the possession and capitalized in the 55th minute. A Mesut Özil corner found Arsenal teammate Per Mertesacker, whose header was denied on a diving save by keeper Tim Howard. The ball deflected out beyond the top of the 18-yard box, where Thomas Müller buried a right-footed strike inside the far post for a 1-0 lead.

Nearly simultaneous to Müller's goal was Ghana's equalizer in Brasilia. The match in the capital saw Portugal take an early one-goal lead through John Boye's own-goal in the 31st minute, but Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan headed in to level the match in the 57th.

Gyan's goal presented a stark possibility for the Americans: One more Ghanaian tally would eliminate the U.S. and send the African side through.

With that looming, the U.S. found it difficult to generate offense. They finished the match with just four shots, one on goal. Graham Zusi's testing first-half shot from distance, which barely flew over the bar, was their best look at net.

But as the Americans struggled, Cristiano Ronaldo did not. An 80th-minute scrum in front of Ghana's net ended with the ball falling to Ronaldo, who put the Portuguese ahead for good with a left-footed goal.

Ghana were unable to recover from Ronaldo's tally and finished fourth in Group G. The Portuguese finished third with four points, behind the U.S. by virtue of their minus-3 goal differential.

Germany emerged from Group G at the top. They will take on Algeria on Monday in the Round of 16.

The U.S. will square off against Belgium on Tuesday at 4 p.m.

In Thursday's other action…

Islam Slimani's 60th-minute header brought Algeria even with Russia and sent the African side to the Round of 16 with a 1-1 draw.

The Foxes finished second in Group H and will meet Germany in their next game, with a chance to avenge their ouster from the 1982 World Cup.

Russia took an early lead in the sixth minute via Aleksandr Kokorin. Teammate Dmitriy Kombarov played a curling cross from the left flank into the box, where Kokorin found a bit of space and leapt high for a powerful header into the back of the net.

The early tally put Russia in position to sneak into second in the group, and momentum seemed to favor them. But Algeria pushed onward, with Yacine Brahimi and Slimani registering quality chances.

Slimani finally capitalized just before the hour mark. Algeria won a free kick near the left sideline just yards from the end line. Brahimi played the ball into the area, where Russian keeper Igor Akinfeev came to punch it away. Akinfeev missed and Slimani didn't, burying the ball into the goal and sending the Algerian fans in Curitiba into a celebration.

Russia had opportunities over the final half hour, but Algerian keeper Rais M'Bolhi made a couple of saves to secure the draw.

Algeria will take on Germany in the first knockout round. The match will certainly highlight the 1982 controversy that led FIFA to institute the current format where final group-stage matches are played simultaneously.

That year, the Algerians completed their match prior to West Germany's against Austria. West Germany scored an early goal to take a 1-0 lead, and, realizing that the result would allow both European sides to go through, the teams played the rest of the match without any real threat of a goal. Algeria protested, but to no avail, and were eliminated from the World Cup.

Group H's other Thursday match was a 1-0 Belgium victory against South Korea. The victory secured Belgium's place atop the group with a perfect 3-0-0 record.

South Korea, needing to win and make up a goal-differential deficit, had a golden opportunity when Belgium's Steven Defour was sent off in the 45th minute for a harsh tackle on Kim Shin-Wook. But the South Koreans were unable to make much of it, failing to score despite 18 total attempts and 12 on goal.

Belgium got the match's only tally in the 78th minute to secure the result. Divock Origi's shot from distance was stopped by keeper Kim Seung-Gyu, but the rebound found its way to Jan Vertonghen who banged it home.

FIFA bans Uruguay's Luis Suarez…

Uruguay will be without star striker Luis Suarez for the rest of the World Cup and beyond.

FIFA announced Thursday it has banned Suarez for nine games and barred him from any soccer-related activity for four months. Suarez cannot enter a stadium or participate in practice. He was also fined 100,000 Swiss francs.

The decision will also affect Suarez's ability to play in Premier League matches for his club team, Liverpool, if he remains there before the next season begins.

The ban came down as a result of Tuesday's incident, when Suarez appeared to bite Italy's Giorgio Chiellini during Uruguay's 1-0 victory. Suarez wasn't disciplined by the match referee and remained on the pitch for his side's eventual winning goal.

Uruguay has said it will appeal FIFA's decision.

For Suarez, it's his third suspension for an incident where he allegedly bit an opponent.  

A look ahead to the Round of 16…

The knockout stage of the tournament begins Saturday with the first two matches of the Round of 16. Brazil takes on Chile at noon, and Colombia plays Uruguay at 4 p.m.

Here's what the rest of the schedule looks like:

Sunday, June 29: Noon, Netherlands vs. Mexico; 4 p.m., Costa Rica vs. Greece

Monday, June 30: Noon, France vs. Nigeria; 4 p.m., Germany vs. Algeria

Tuesday, July 1: Noon, Argentina vs. Switzerland; 4 p.m., Belgium vs. United States

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