US path gets nasty after taking victory in defeat

US path gets nasty after taking victory in defeat
June 26, 2014, 11:15 am
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The USMNT opens the knockout round July 1 against the winner in Group H -- likely Belgium. (USATSI)

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So in the end, Group G was the Group Of Just Results, and the biggest moment in modern US soccer history was Germany beating Portugal, 4-0.

Hey, that’s how it plays in the World Cup, and if that offends you, there are always OTAs and the NCAA O’Bannon Trial for your entertainment pleasure.

The United States lost to a superior German side, 1-0, and should be happy it was only that. And Portugal beat a disintegrating Ghanaian side, 2-1, because Cristiano Ronaldo is either Best Player In The World or Best Player In The World 1A.

As a result, the US got its result, a non-cynical defeat to an equally invested team, and a likely date with the nasty Belgian buzzsaw July 1, which is as it should be. The Americans should never be allowed an easy game, lest it lose its national M.O. as The Designated Plucky Underdog.

[NEWS: USMNT falls 1-0, advances]

Indeed, the American path only gets nastier. Beat Belgium, and they almost surely get Argentina (that’s Lionel Messi to you). Beat Argentina, and it’s either Costa Rica or The Netherlands. It’s even apt that the Americans advance only because Germany hammered Portugal in the opening match for both teams, because goal difference matters in soccer, as opposed to essentially every other sport.

This is a useful moment for soccer in America, because ultimately the Luis Suarez bicuspid disaster becomes an afterthought and by the time the US is eliminated (yes, I believe, I believe Jurgen Klinsmann when he says the US has no chance to win it all), the Suarez story will be old news. And you now how we hate old news when there is always new news to grind.

[RELATED: Suarez banned for biting]

As a purely soccer matter, though, the US was largely owned by Germany, which means if you choose to watch only this game as your guide to the rest of the tournament, you will not be filled with optimism. The Germans were much better with talent and tactics, controlling the ball and making goalkeeper Tim Howard save the team’s bacon. It was, in short, what games against the Germans typically are. Klinsmann was right to say the US must be better, because Belgium has commensurate skill and is very nearly as gifted strategically.

But like we said, it’s hard because it should be hard. The satisfaction of beating pundits is now complete, and the heavy lifting just gets more burdensome.

Now you can move on from Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Muller and Philipp Lahm and Manuel Neuer and Yogi Low to Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku and Vincent Kompany and Thibaut Courtois and Marc Wilmots. Get studying, children. Your work is not yet done.