With 12 of the 16 teams already having secured positions in the knockout stages of the 2014 World Cup, Day 15 will finalize those last four spots.
A bevy of talent is set to take the field on Thursday for Groups G and H, as the United States will attempt to keep pace with world football juggernaut Germany in an attempt to earn its second consecutive berth in the round of 16.
Belgium has already secured passage into the knockout stages; however, an intense battle between Algeria and Russia will determine which team will join them going forward.
Will Clint Dempsey and the Americans advance? Can Algeria continue to restore its pride at this year's World Cup?
The answers to these questions and more will come to fruition in short order.
Let's take a look at the Day 15 results and updated group standings as they happen.
|Group||Team 1||Result||Team 2|
Day 15 Results
Germany 1, United States 0
Even though a draw would be enough to advance each of these teams into the knockout stages of the tournament, each side's desire to win quickly turned this match into an action-packed contest.
The Germans started things off rather quickly, catching the Americans sleeping on defense and firing away at goal early and often. Luckily for the United States, goalkeeper Tim Howard displayed some great anticipation and hands throughout the match.
The difference-maker in the game was a strike from Germany's Thomas Muller in the 55th minute. After a Howard deflection which turned into a poor clearance, Muller reaped the benefits, burying a shot into the back of the net on the right side.
Here's a look at his strike, courtesy of World Cup 2014:
VINE: Thomas Müller scores his 9th goal in his 9th World Cup game. http://t.co/PR7Mx8jJBO— World Cup 2014 (@FIFAWorldCupTM) June 26, 2014
A lack of offensive prowess for the United States may not bode well going forward, as the team only recorded one shot on goal on Thursday. Lancaster Sports tweeted a viable question following the match:
I think a fair question moving forward is this: How does #USA plan to generate offense in the knockout round?— Lancaster Sports (@LancasterSports) June 26, 2014
Regardless of the outcome, the United States earned a well-deserved trip to the round of 16 after improbably surviving the Group of Death. Germany looks incredibly strong and should be considered one of the favorites to win the World Cup.
Portugal 2, Ghana 1
Even though Portugal defeated Ghana by a score of 2-1, it was the Ghanaians scoring two goals on the day.
Defender John Boye deflected a strike from Portugal in the 31st minute which found its way past goalkeeper Fatau Dauda for an own goal. According to Numbers Never Lie, this was the first own goal in Ghana's World Cup history:
Ghana trail by 1 with 1st own goal in their World Cup History. p.s. If this result holds Germany Wins Group & US advances.— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) June 26, 2014
In the second half, the impressive Asamoah Gyan struck again. He had already recorded one goal and one assist over his first two games, and this brilliant header in the 57th minute marked his second score of the tournament and the equalizer against Portugal, via Football Vines:
Asamoah Gyan equalises for Ghana. http://t.co/0OG3EfUjZP— Football Vines (@Vine_Football) June 26, 2014
From there, the match appeared to be headed toward a draw; however, with Cristiano Ronaldo on the pitch, that changed quickly.
In the 80th minute, Ronaldo delivered a strike off a rebound to seal the match for Portugal. Here's a look, courtesy of a tweet from 2014 World Cup:
Ronaldo's goal that may well have saved USA | https://t.co/RKlFUQupTb— 2014 World Cup (@The2014WorIdCup) June 26, 2014
Portugal may have struggled early in this year's World Cup—and won't be advancing to the knockout stages—but there's no denying the team's brilliant finish.
Belgium 1, South Korea 0
All Belgium needed was a draw against South Korea to ensure a finish atop Group H. Well, it did one better.
In a highly defensive match, Belgium emerged victorious by a single goal over South Korea. Sure, that may not seem like an impressive feat due to the Korean's winless record; however, the Belgians accomplished the task with only 10 players on the pitch.
Just before halftime, Steven Defour was ejected due to this dreadful tackle, courtesy of 2014 World Cup:
VINE: Belgium's Steven Defour was sent off in the first half for this tackle... http://t.co/ESVtKkkLdB— 2014 World Cup (@2014WC_Brazil) June 26, 2014
Surely one would think the Belgians would apply a defensive strategy after the red card, but that simply wasn't the case.
In the 78th minute, Jan Vertonghen was in perfect position for an easy goal off a rebound, via Football Vines:
Jan Vertonghen with the late goal for 10-man Belgium. http://t.co/Pk29HqEvUL— Football Vines (@FootballVines) June 26, 2014
That score was enough for a Belgium victory and a spot in the round of 16. So, who are the Belgians set to face? Well, that would be none other than the United States. Jeff Borzello of CBS Sports has the details:
USA will play Belgium next Tuesday at 4 p.m.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) June 26, 2014
Algeria 1, Russia 1
With Belgium clinching the top spot in Group H, the second position was up for grabs between Algeria and Russia. The match didn't disappoint.
The Russians needed a win to advance and came out firing. After only six minutes, Alexandr Kokorin delivered a brilliant header past Algerian goalkeeper Rais M'Bohli to quickly put his team up 1-0. Take a look at the goal, courtesy of Fantasy League:
After the goal, the Russians continued on the attack, eventually finishing the game with seven of their 10 shots on goal. Although, with a window of opportunity available, Algeria struck in the second half.
Islam Slimani was coming off a fantastic one-goal, one-assist game against South Korea, and he delivered once more against Russia in the 60th minute on Thursday. His impressive header proved to be the equalizer and sent Algeria through to the knockout stages.
Here's a great look at his goal, courtesy of Football Vines:
Slimani equalises for Algeria. As it stands they go through. http://t.co/akEbqcCZRg— Football Vines (@Vine_Football) June 26, 2014
With the draw, Algeria finished the group stage with four points and is set to take on Germany in the round of 16.
Facing the Germans will certainly be a daunting task, but for now, the Algerians can celebrate making the knockouts for the first time in their history. ESPN the Magazine tweeted its thoughts:
Watching Algeria celebrate making the knockouts for the first time is very, very cool. #ALG— ESPN The Magazine (@ESPNMag) June 26, 2014
Well done, Algeria.