Germany defeated the United States 1-0 on Thursday to win the 2014 FIFA World Cup's Group G, but both sides will be advancing to the round of 16 in Brazil. None of the four teams in the "Group of Death" had advanced to the knockout stage before Thursday's finale of fixtures.
Because the Germans crushed Portugal in the opener, the latter's goal differential was too insurmountable to rally back into the top two. Even a 2-1 victory over Ghana to finish—with superstar striker Cristiano Ronaldo netting the winner—wasn't enough for Portugal to remain in the tournament.
Below is more detailed analysis of the two matches that closed out Group G action Thursday and what the respective outlooks are for the sides fortunate enough to keep playing football.
Portugal 2, Ghana 1
American fans have to be thankful for Ronaldo, who broke their hearts with a perfect cross in stoppage time for Portugal to salvage a 2-2 draw in the teams' second group match. This time around, it was Ronaldo who struck down Ghana, the side that had knocked the U.S. out of the previous two World Cups.
One has to wonder how Portugal may have fared had they not come out so flat in the first game, losing 4-0 to Germany. Defender Pepe got a red card when his side trailed 2-0, so if they were at full strength, perhaps the goal differential wouldn't have been so disparate to start.
Ronaldo, 29, should have at least one World Cup appearance left in him, yet he will have to be wondering what could have been.
The same could be said for Ghana, too. ESPN Stats & Info noted how much of a devastating blow Ronaldo's goal in the 81st minute was, which was a microcosm of how the World Cup played out for the Black Stars:
Ghana showed promise in all three of their matches yet had nothing more than one point to show for it. A late equalizer against the U.S. was offset by John Brooks' heroics, and they were unable to hold a second-half lead over Germany, settling for a draw.
Thursday's final match highlighted what made Group G so special. Just about every match was competitive, and any team could have emerged from this talented cluster. Ghana had the ability to make a World Cup run, playing better than any other side that finished last in their group.
Germany 1, USA 0
Considering the heavy favorite Germany dominated possession in holding the ball for 63 percent of the match, this result could have been more lopsided.
Thankfully for the U.S., their back line stood strong, with an extraordinary strike from Thomas Muller being the only shot that got by American goalkeeper Tim Howard. In the end, just competing hard against Germany was all the USA needed to move on.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann said his losing side could have produced more on offense afterward, but he still focused on the positives of moving on.
"It is huge for us getting out of this group," said Klinsmann, per USA Today's Kelly Whiteside. "Everyone said we had no chance. We took that chance and now we really want to move on. We should have created a bit more chances. That’s something we have to improve on."
It would have been interesting to see how the underdogs would have fared had their premier forward in Jozy Altidore not been out due to a hamstring injury. Altidore adds a dynamic dimension to his side's attack, which hasn't been on display for the World Cup since he hasn't been on the pitch.
Grantland's Bill Barnwell pointed out how the majority of the USA roster stepped up to get past an extremely tough group:
Klinsmann deserves a ton of credit for his timely substitutions that resulted in Brooks' winner versus Ghana and DeAndre Yedlin being involved in the go-ahead goal late against Portugal. Klinsmann seems to have a knack for deploying the proper subs, but having Altidore would be invaluable moving forward.
ESPN's Colin Cowherd is eagerly anticipating what lies ahead for the Americans:
Now that the USA is through to the knockout stage, they have to face likely Group H winner Belgium on July 1. With a core of players dubbed the "golden generation," there may actually be more pressure on Belgium to thrive after looking vulnerable at times in their first two group fixtures. The tough Group of Death should aid the USA's efforts to push to the quarter-finals.
Now that they've proved they can hang with some of the best international football powers, Klinsmann's clan can field the confidence to compete with anyone in Brazil.
Furthermore, the Germans deserve a ton of credit for not losing any of their three matches, and they will face the second-place finisher from Group H. Germany have to be considered a legitimate contender for the World Cup title after their sensational advancement to the round of 16. Having a reigning Golden Boot winner in Muller sporting fine form following Thursday's goal will only bolster Germany's attack, too.