Thursday in soggy Recife, Brazil, the USA qualified to the Round of 16 in the World Cup. They lost to Germany by only 1-0 and in so doing tied with Portugal on points but beat the on goal differential.
Meanwhile, in sunny Brasilia, the Portuguese National Football Team played its worst game of the tournament in a 2-1 win over Ghana salvaging only the fact the injured Cristiano Ronaldo scored his lone World Cup goal.
In Recife, the game was decided at the 55th minute by top scorer Thomas Muller’s curler from just outside the left side of the USA box to the far post. In what was a downpour for the duration of the game, which followed much prior rain, it must be said the pitch held up admirably if play itself was not inspirational.
Most of the action was mediated by the conditions from passes that seemed a bit off to shots and headers that seemed to skid. In the end the Germans could not find any further motivation and seemed accepting of the victory while the USA, knowing the low score would not be a problem, seemed equally happy doing what was needed and little more. Both teams must await the Group H matches later today to find out who their opponents will be for the next round. Neither should face tougher opposition than they have already done in group play.
In Brasilia, a poorly played game in perfect conditions took place. The Portuguese and Ghanaians could not stitch four passes together all game long as they seemed to make the wrong decisions time and again on just about every other play. From missing the open man, to taking a shot on goal when having numbers in the box, to missing point blank headers and shots, the match was an incredible series of miscues.
Playing without key players, some who were sent home (Sulley Mutari and Kevin-Prince Boateng) and others for strategic or health issues, Ghana never seemed to reach a rhythm and relied instead on the counterattacks the constant Portuguese advances allowed. The Portuguese seemed intent on either taking shots whenever they were in the vicinity of the goal or in looking for a double-teamed Ronaldo. Neither strategy worked as the shots were woefully poor and the Ghanaian defense won the majority of the contested passes to Ronaldo.
The first half score, at the 30th minute mark, was an own goal off a ridiculous acrobatic attempt at a clearance by John Boye who managed to send the ball backwards toward his own goal, have it go over keeper, Fatau Dauda, then hit the cross bar and finally go in off the far post. The bizarre nature of the goal did not go unnoticed by the players and seemed not to affect either side as the Portuguese were not inspired to more effort and the Ghanaians continued working with more confidence and calm than their opponents. The half ended with the 1-0 score line.
At the 56th minute Asamoah Gyan received a perfect cross from Kiwadwo Asamoah and headed home from close range for the tie. This score did affect the players since Ghana now thought they could turn the game around and maybe sneak into the next round if only they could score repeatedly. But neither team was playing well and it was Ronaldo who scored at the 80th minute when Dauda made a poor clearance into traffic and paid the penalty.
With the score 2-1 for Portugal the immensity of the task ahead, particularly given the time remaining seemed to dawn on all involved. Silly fouls born of frustration ensued but no more action of any real danger came about. In the end neither team had earned their passage to the next round and would instead have the time to heal and patch up relations back home. It was a sad end for Ronaldo, who, having had a stellar year prior to arriving in Brazil, never recovered from his injuries in time to have an impact on what is probably his last World Cup.