Recife, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - They had to do it the hard way, but in the end it was job done for the United States on Thursday as the Americans advanced to the knockout round of the World Cup for the second consecutive tournament despite falling to Germany, 1-0, at the Arena Pernambuco.
After earning a huge 2-1 win over the Ghanaians in their opening match on June 16 and suffering a gut-wrenching last-second 2-2 draw with Portugal last Sunday, Jurgen Klinsmann's side needed only a draw to ensure their place in the round of 16 as Group G runners-up.
It wasn't the greatest display of football from the clearly fatigued U.S. squad as they struggled through much of the match to create any kind of quality scoring chances, but went into the break level at 0-0.
Thomas Muller broke the deadlock for Germany in the 55th minute with his fourth goal of the tournament to send Germany to the top of the group with seven points, while the U.S. finished second with four points and advanced thanks to Portugal's 2-1 win over Ghana in Brasilia.
"This was by far the strongest group to go through. It was hard work and it required tremendous commitment," Klinsmann said after the match. "We'll go into the round of 16, analyze this game, see who we're going to play and take it to them. Now it really starts, we'll put this group stage behind us."
The Americans will face the winner of Group H on Tuesday, while Germany will play the Group H runners-up on Monday.
There was plenty of chatter prior to the match of the United States facing a talented Germany side with a potential disadvantage of having only three days of rest following the Portugal draw in Manaus.
The Americans refused to rely on that as an excuse, but the side did look fatigued for much of the match as Germany had the better of the play in the early stages.
Jerome Boateng fashioned the first good chance for the Germans just minutes in as he sent a cross into the box that forced U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard into an early save.
Lukas Podolski tested Howard with a low, driven cross in the eighth minute, but the Everton goalkeeper made another early key stop.
The Americans' first quality chance came in the 23rd minute as Graham Zusi had a go on the left flank from the edge of the penalty area, but his right-footed effort soared over the crossbar.
Germany continued to find the better chances as the first half wore on when Arsenal man Mesut Ozil forced Howard into a good save in the 35th minute and the sides went into the intermission level.
The breakthrough for Germany came 10 minutes into the second half via a corner kick. Ozil served a nice ball into the area from the right flank that Per Mertesacker nodded on goal with pace.
Howard parried the ball away, but it fell to Muller on the edge of the box and the Bayern Munich man hammered it past Howard into the bottom right corner to give his nation the lead.
Trailing by a goal, things got chippy as the second half wore on. Tackles came flying in as the Americans struggled to create any kind of opportunities.
"We were well organized today and dominated the match," Germany coach Joachim Low said. "We didn't let USA have a chance on our goal right up to the final whistle. We were strong in midfield and that's where we put them under pressure."
German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer could have set up a lawn chair in his penalty area for most of the second half because the U.S. failed to put any strikes on target over the course of the 90 minutes.
But thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo's 81st-minute winner against Ghana in Brasilia, Klinsmann's men won the war that was the "Group of Death" despite losing that final battle against a well-drilled Germany machine.