Despite Losing To Germany, U.S. Advances In World Cup

The U.S. men's soccer team moves on to the World Cup's round of 16. They lost to Germany, but advance because Portugal beat Ghana. The team will get to rest a bit before playing Belgium on Tuesday.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

I don't know about you. I was working midday yesterday, not watching soccer. I can't say the same for my father, who sent me wild text messages celebrating Portugal's victory at the World Cup. That result propelled the United States into the next round, even though the Americans themselves lost 1-0 to Germany. NPR's Tom Goldman was at the U.S. Germany match in stormy Recife, Brazil and he us this report.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: There is a special madness to the two-week group stage of the tournament. It can be straightforward. Teams in each group play each other once - wins and draws are worth points. The two teams in each group with the most points move on. But often straightforward breaks down and success is measured by things, like goal differentials and reality isn't what it seems - case in point, yesterday at soggy Arena Pernambuco, outside Recife, right after the final whistle.

Germany just beat the USA 1-0. And you've got two teams celebrating down on the field, because in the other game Portugal-Ghana, Portugal won, meaning the U.S... There's the score.

(CHEERING)

GOLDMAN: Portugal, 2, Ghana, 1 - that's a final. That means the U.S.A. is through to the knockout stage, even though they lost here. That's the group stage, where if you can't win on your own, you get help from someone else. Portugal and Ghana are the two other teams in the Group of Death. They played yesterday at the exact time Germany and the U.S. did. Fans in Recife kept track of Portugal-Ghana, knowing the result could have the impact it ultimately did. Players in Recife, like U.S. defender Matt Besler, didn't plan to keep track. He said he just wanted to put his head down and try to win. Until late in the game when he asked someone on the U.S. bench for a score and then told fellow defender Omar Gonzalez that Portugal was ahead.

MATT BESLER: You know, me and Omar both said our job right now is to not give up another goal. We totally understood that. If we don't give up another goal and the result holds, we go through.

GOLDMAN: Besler, Gonzalez and stalwart goalkeeper, Tim Howard, behind them, were part of a strong defensive effort - strong because they were on high alert in the beginning. It became obvious early on that a possible pact between the teams - a draw would have sent them both through - was not happening. Germany attacked early and often with it short-pass, ball-control offense, endlessly probing the U.S. defense. The probing finally paid off 10 minutes into the second half. After Howard repelled a first shot.

(CHEERING)

GOLDMAN: German scoring machine, Thomas Mueller, gathered the bouncing ball and sent it right bending back into the right side of the net. It was Mueller's fourth goal of the tournament. For the game, Germany outshot the U.S. 9 to 1 and dominated the time of possession, hanging onto the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game. That's a deficiency the U.S. has to clean up quickly. In the American's defense, they were playing one of the top teams in the world. And they hung with them enough to impress German defender, Per Mertesacker.

PER MERTESACKER: They have a great mentality and a great attitude. And that's why they are in the next round. And they deserve it fully.

GOLDMAN: Sounds like someone's been talking to Tonya Keith.

TONYA KEITH: We deserve a lot of respect for what we were able to do in this first round.

GOLDMAN: Keith is the author of "Passionate Soccer Love," a book about traveling the world, following the U.S. team. She was one of the 41,000 plus, who braved torrential rains in and around Recife -that even threatened to postpone the game. But you think some heavy rain is going to stop a woman who wrote a book called "Passionate Soccer Love?" Me neither.

KEITH: I cannot wait. Bring on Belgium, we're headed to Salvador. Let's do this.

CHORUS: (Singing) How I want to be in that number. Oh, when the Yanks go marching in.

GOLDMAN: The U.S. team will march into Salvador next week, when the fun - the merciless fun of the knockout stage begins. No more winning when you lose. No more calculating point totals with an abacus in one hand and worry beads in the other. Tom Goldman, NPR News, Recife.

GREENE: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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