The USA took it down to the wire before scoring in injury time to secure their spot in the Round of 16 at the World Cup. England scored their goal early to beat Slovenia and advance to the knock-out round.
Better late than never for Donovan, left, and the USA
It was a nail-biter down to the very end to determine the teams that would advance to the knock-out stage from Group C at the World Cup. England scored early to wrap up a 1-0 win against Slovenia and secure their spot in the Round of 16. The United States, however, didn't score the 1-0 game winner until injury time against Algeria, keeping American and Slovenian fans on the edge of their seats.
As long as England's lead over Slovenia held, the USA was in a must-win situation against Algeria. Win and they were through; lose and the spot in the knock-out round went to Slovenia.
The game was full of very near-misses for Bob Bradley's American side. Several shots in the second half either clanged off the woodwork or missed the goal entirely. Clint Dempsey even had both in a single play. After taking a cross from Jozy Altidore in the 57th minute, Dempsey blasted a shot that bounced off the right post and then sent the resulting rebound out of bounds.
The Americans even had a goal called back in the first half. Dempsey picked up a deflection from Algerian keeper Rais Bolihi and tapped in the easy goal, but he was whistled offside.
As the end of the game approached, both teams stepped on the gas and aggressively went after goals. A spot in the Round of 16 was on the line for the Algerians as well. Winning by a large enough margin would have put them ahead of Slovenia and into the knock-out stage.
But the USA had the advantage, and kept up the tempo in injury time. In the 91st minute, a promising attack saw Bolihi block a cross from Altidore only to have American captain London Donovan easily put away the deflection and save the USA from World Cup elimination.
Man-of-the-Match Donovan is somewhere on the bottom of this American dog-pile
Roll of the dice
England were also in a do-or-die situation coming into Wednesday's match. In an effort to boost England's attack after only scoring one goal in previous two group stage games, coach Fabio Capello made three changes aimed at shaking up his offence.
Jermain Defoe, James Milner, and Matthew Upson started the game for England in place of Emile Heskey, Aaron Lennon, and the suspended Jamie Carragher, respectively.
Capello's gambles paid off with a goal from Defoe, thanks to an assist from Milner. In the 23rd minute, Milner found Defoe in front of the net, and Defoe rifled a shot directly at Slovenian keeper Samir Handanovic. Hananovic managed to get both gloves on the ball but the shot was too hard to bring under control.
Defoe got England on track for the next round
The win put England ahead of Slovenia in the table in second place. England and the USA ended the group stage even on points and with an equal goal difference, but the USA's 2-2 draw against Slovenia meant the Americans had scored more goals and therefore finished at the top of the group.
Wednesday also featured the final match of Group D as Germany beat Ghana 1-0 and Australia beat Serbia 2-1. Germany and Ghana will now go through to the final 16. Germany is to play England on Sunday, and the USA faces Ghana on Saturday.
Author: Matt Zuvela (smh)
Editor: Andreas Illmer