It was touted as the biggest match in American soccer history, but Team USA's World Cup battle with Germany ended up being a bittersweet affair.
The United States secured a spot in the knockout stage thanks to Portugal's 2-1 victory over Ghana, but a 1-0 loss to Germany showed problems for the squad that will be exploited looking ahead to the round of 16.
There wasn't all doom and gloom after the match. As Frank Isola of the New York Daily News noted, this loss certainly doesn't have the sting that the U.S. tie with Portugal did.
Of course, the difference between the two is America didn't know it would be playing on after the Portugal outcome.
Yet if we are really examining the 1-0 loss against Germany, the United States shouldn't be thrilled to just advance because of someone else's win.
Germany was the superior team coming in, so its win wasn't a surprise, but the way Joachim Loew's squad dominated every facet of the match is alarming. As Grant Wahl of SI.com wrote in his post-match recap, this was basically a rehash of 2002 for the United States.
This game reminded me a lot of the final group game in World Cup 2002, when the U.S., on four points, got smacked 3-1 by Poland and needed South Korea to beat Portugal in the other game that was going on at the same time. Finally, late in that game Park Ji-Sung scored the goal for the Koreans that eliminated Portugal and allowed the U.S. to advance to the Round of 16 despite losing.
All told, the Americans could muster just one shot on goal in defeat. Alejandro Bedoya had the best chance to put Team USA on the board late in the match, but German defender Philipp Lahm made a brilliant slide to prevent a tie.
It would be easy to blame the rough weather conditions for America's offensive ineptitude, but Germany was rolling in U.S. territory all match, controlling the ball 63 percent of the time and getting nine shots at Tim Howard, including a beautiful rebound goal by Thomas Mueller that would end up being the difference.
Clint Dempsey, who had to step up in this match with Jozy Altidore still nursing a hamstring injury, wasn't a factor. His most notable contributions were an offside penalty and a foul.
Even with all these flaws, the biggest one was how Jurgen Klinsmann's squad wore down as the match went on. Again, this is a case where you can attribute Germany's extra day of rest to that, but athletes can find the adrenaline in a do-or-die situation.
Germany was just bigger, faster and stronger than the United States, which was able to find a miracle win against Ghana thanks to little-known John Brooks despite having a huge shot and possession discrepancy similar to Thursday's match.
The Americans have to play on their heels because they simply don't have the talent to match what squads like Germany are operating with. They deserve credit for making it to the knockout stage, but don't discount the possibility that this so-called "Group of Death" got overrated before the event.
While Germany looks like a serious World Cup player, Portugal never had Cristiano Ronaldo at full strength due to leg injuries and Ghana wasn't even ranked in FIFA's top 30 when the event started.
If you want to judge by rankings, Group B packed more punch with Spain, Chile and the Netherlands all being in FIFA's top 15.
Group G was labeled the Group of Death when all four squads were at full strength, which wasn't the case basically from the time the World Cup started.
None of this is meant to take away from the United States advancing. It's a great achievement for the squad and the country, which has obviously embraced the sport based on television ratings for the matchup with Portugal.
When the time comes for the U.S. to play its best in a must-win situation, which every match from now on is, nothing that happened in the battle with Germany, or in the group stage, suggests that things will get better.
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