This is the World Cup that keeps on giving after yet another rip roaring, drama packed game. Two Portuguese goals at the beginning and the end of the match sandwiched a captain’s goal by Clint Dempsey and a wonder strike from Jermaine Jones and ensured that all will be decided in Group G in the last round of fixtures. With Ghana’s result against Germany, the ‘group of death’ is finely poised. Who dares qualify?
1. The shoe’s on the other foot for the US
When John Brooks rose to head home an 87th minute winner against Ghana, the sheer joy on the faces of his teammates and coaching staff was a sight to behold. Whilst it took a while for everything to sink in for Brooks, who provided the World Cup with one of the iconic goal celebrations, the rest of the side realized the importance of that late winner.
Silvestre Varela’s last gasp equalizer for Portugal forced the US to experience the crueler side of the game with qualification only a few seconds away. Tim Howard’s immediate reaction once the ball hit the back of the net encapsulated the moment with the goalkeeper putting his hands on his head in the realization that the US was so close but yet so far away from qualification.
The Americans would have settled for a 2-2 draw under normal circumstances but the concession of a last second equalizer left a sour taste in the mouth for the players, coaching staff and fans. This was a draw that felt like a defeat.
2. Klinsmann sends the right message
“When you concede in the last second it is unfortunate, but it was an amazing game from us – I can’t ask for any more. Now we have to get a result against Germany and that is what we’re going to do. We will take even more confidence into the next game. It’ll be another final but that’s what the World Cup is about.”
In the aftermath of the game it could have been easy to lament or lambast giving up an equalizer right at the death. However Klinsmann chose to build-up his players and ease the pressure off them.
Klinsmann interestingly also made a point of emphasizing that the Germans, whom the USA face next, would have had an extra day of rest and that the so-called bigger nations are having things made easier for them. Was that kidology on his part? Does he believe it? Is he trying to build a siege mentality ahead of this vital clash? Maybe it’s all three but Klinsmann knows that whilst the Germans have been scoring goals the game against Ghana demonstrated a fragility at the back, a weakness that can be exploited.
3. Inspiration and Perspiration
It’s hard not to feel sympathy for the US as they were a whisker away from sealing a berth in the knockouts.
Tim Howard produced a world class save to deny Éder after Nani’s initial effort came back off the post. The importance of that save just before half time cannot be underestimated as it kept the score to 1-0 and ensured that the US stayed in the game.