The United States didn’t deserve to go out of the World Cup Thursday against Germany — not after coming within 30 seconds of clinching their place in the knockout stages against Portugal, and battling gamely against the worst travel schedule in the competition, and a group of death that promised and delivered drama and hardship.
If the US had gone out today, it would have meant that Ghana knocked the Americans out of three World Cups in a row; this time, Ghana would have sent the US packing despite playing a different team – Portugal – and losing to the US earlier in the tournament.
No, that would have been too much. Too cruel. Too devastating. So when the Americans needed some help and got it on Thursday, they didn’t owe any apologies to anyone.
They gave the Germans a tough time, and were only beaten by a world-class goal by Thomas Muller.
So even though it was dark sheets of rain and gloom that cascaded down on Recife, it was all sunshine and light in Brasilia, where Cristiano Ronaldo’s late goal ensured safe American passage.
That’s the World Cup for you: CR7 turned American hero.
A drenched Jurgen Klinsmann was downright bubbly in his post-match press conference. Now the fun begins for the United States.
They’ve made it through the Group of Death, defying a world’s worth of scoffs and doubt, but more importantly keeping the US’ country-wide soccer joy ride on the road for the biggest game of them all.
It wasn’t easy – as Klinsmann said after conceding in the 95th minute against the Portuguese, “we have to do it the hard way.” Heat of the moment or not, Klinsmann had a point: Of the eight teams that played in diabolical Manaus, none were seeded at the World Cup draw.
Going by simple ratios, one out of every four World Cup teams was seeded. Two should have had to contend with the jungle. None did.
The game against Germany wasn’t much fun either. The US, outclassed but undaunted, scraped and scraped their way through 90 slow, difficult minutes.
As Klinsmann – who wouldn’t answer questions in German before the match – happily said in German after the match, “I’m glad it’s over.”
Never in his managerial career did Klinsmann look as gaunt and devastated as he did after his adopted country was paired with his native country last December at the World Cup draw.
In truth, from the moment on, this World Cup has been Klinsmann’s. We’re all just along for the show.
In qualifying, Klinsmann mostly stuck to the script. The US won their home games. They got railroaded in Costa Rica and Honduras. Jurgen beat Mexico dos a cero in Columbus, just as Bob Bradley and Bruce Arena did before him.
Everyone knew what to expect, and everyone was on board.
Then the draw happened. And Klinsmann flipped the script. He sacked his loyal and long-serving assistant manager Martin Vazquez. He hired German coach Berti Vogts as an assistant.