1. Portuguese defender Pepe used his head but wasn’t very smart. Things were already going badly for Portugal. The latest soft penalty in this World Cup was conceded after Mario Gotze was taken down in the box with the softest of touches. Then the Germans made it 2-0. At this point, the smart thing for the Portuguese to do would have been to lock down and try to claw their way back into the game. Instead, Pepe brought the World Cup its strangest headbutt since Zinedine Zidane. The red card that followed means Portugal will be without Pepe when it meets the U.S. team.
2. Thomas Muller claims the first World Cup hat trick. France’s Karim Benzema came mighty close yesterday, but the middle goal was ultimately claimed by the keeper. Instead, we have Germany’s Thomas Muller to add to the race for the Golden Boot. Muller has been an integral part of both the German squad and Bayern Munich for so long that he almost seems to be part of the furniture, but today he reminded us that he is a very good footballer on a very good team.
3. There had to be one. Hopefully, it will be no more than one, but the dire Nigeria vs. Iran draw was the exact sort of game that makes Americans think that they hate soccer. There can be exciting ties; this was not one of them. Instead it was the worst kind of stalemate — the kind between two teams that are solid but not particularly inspiring or creative.
4. Clint Dempsey writes himself into the record books. With his strike at the 30-second mark, Dempsey became the first American to score in three consecutive world cups. His goal was also the fifth fastest ever scored in a World Cup game. And it was also a pretty sick goal.
5. USA! USA! USA! It was not pretty. Between Dempsey’s sublime opening strike and John Brooks’s go-ahead goal there was some 80-odd minutes of torture as the U.S. sloppily conceded possession to Ghana over and over, usually due to trying a slick pass when a simple one would have done just fine. The Americans seemed allergic to seeing out the game, which led to jangly nerves until the final whistle. Any one of a million sloppy passes could have ended badly (and Tim Howard deserves a lot of credit), but in the end the U.S. goes into the next game against Portugal with some confidence. Win or draw with Portugal and we can all actually start thinking about the round of 16.