They needed a little help from their friends, but that’s nothing new. The US men’s soccer team has won by losing at the World Cup twice before, in 1994 and 2002. So when the Americans advanced to the second round and a date with Belgium despite being stifled, 1-0, by the Germans in their sodden group finale Thursday in Recife, Brazil, nobody was shocked.
Everyone knew that Portugal had a good chance of beating Ghana in Brasilia, especially with Black Star starters Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng suspended, and it was karmic rebalance that it was Cristiano Ronaldo who scored the winner.
It was Ronaldo, of course, who served up the lethal cross to Silvestre Valera in the final seconds in the jungle Sunday and snatched away a US victory. He and his playmates are going back to Lisbon because they couldn’t score a few more on Ghana, thanks to Ronaldo’s multiple misfires, and because they took a four-goal smackdown from the Germans.
Since they weren’t likely to master the Mannschaft, the Yanks had to worry about the results of a match being played simultaneously more than 1,300 miles away. The US would have advanced with a draw in Brasilia but those teams had no interest in producing a result that would eliminate them both.
So the Americans wanted the Portuguese to win, but not by too much. Their nightmare scenario would have been a Ghana victory coupled with a US loss, and with a dozen minutes to go, that seemed more than possible.
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