2014 FIFA World Cup: Day 15 Recap

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US advance in spite of themselves; Portugal eke out pointless win over Ghana

It was never going to be an exciting game between Germany and USA, who both only needed to tie each other to advance to the round of 16, but the flooding rains in Recife ensured it would be as plodding to play as it was to watch. Neither team did much on the attack­—team USA didn’t get a single shot to the German keeper through the entire game—but Germany at least made the most of the one chance it created. American keeper Tim Howard again did what he could to keep his team level, but there was nothing he could do about the rebound that found Thomas Muller all alone and ended up in the back of USA’s net—the goal ties Muller with Lionel Messi and Neymar for the tournament scoring lead. Germany was flat-out better in every aspect, as they should be, but the Americans were able to advance anyway after Portugal beat Ghana.

The US probably never should have had a chance to finish second in their group—for one, Portugal played far below their pedigree, and Ghana had every right to claim at least a tie in their game against the US, but were dealt a loss on a last-minute goal by John Brooks. Still, Ghana had a chance to play their way into the next round and weren’t up to the task. Their troubles started with an own goal, John Boye clearing the ball right past his keeper to stake Portugal to a one-goal lead. But they managed to pull even on a running header by captain Asamoah Gyan. Their hopes were dashed with 10 minutes left, though, on a massive flub by Ghanian keper Fatawu Dauda—the keeper swatted the ball straight to Cristiano Ronaldo, who angrily hoofed his only goal of the tournament.  Prior to the match, two of Ghana’s best players—Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng—were dismissed by their team for incidents relating to their coach and a Ghanian official, all but ensuring the team would be no Cinderella in this World Cup.

Shorthanded Belgium beat South Korea; Algerians make history

Belgium were expected to be a dark horse in this World Cup but, despite running the table with three group stage wins, they haven’t quite looked like the challengers we expected. But they were in real danger of embarrassment against South Korea when, just before halftime, Belgian Steven Defour was sent off for a reckless challenge, putting his team down to 10 players. That seemed to be enough to level the playing field, as each team shared relatively equal possession and scoring chances, but Belgium pulled ahead when defender Jan Vertonghen picked up a juicy rebound and scored his first of the tournament.  Belgium rode the goal to victory, securing top spot in their group and sending South Korea home with just a single point.

There have been higher-profile disappointments in this World Cup, but Russia did nothing over their three games to prove themselves worthy of advancing. They managed only a draw against South Korea, were unable to beat a sluggish Belgian squad and bowed out of the World Cup with a draw against Algeria, who advanced to the next round. Russia looked ready to compete with a goal off the head of Alexander Kokorin just six minutes in. But they could only fend off Islam Slimani for so long, as the striker had a pair of golden opportunities before finally heading in the tying goal in the 60th minute. The draw propelled Algeria to their first-ever Round of 16 placement and a date with Germany.

At the end of the group stage we now have the final matchups for the Round of 16: Germany meets Algeria on Monday afternoon while the USA will face Belgium on Tuesday.

Tags: World Cup 2014

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