World Cup 2014: How the U.S. Can Make the Final

World Cup 2014: How the U.S. Can Make the Final

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Tim Howard is Superman and four other things you need to know about Thursday’s World Cup action.

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1. The U.S. wins by losing well. Of all the potential ways the U.S. could have progressed through to the round of 16, this was surely the one that required the most delicate tightrope act. Beating Germany was always going to be a tough task. Holding on for the draw seemed our best hope. Hoping for a draw in the other match was always going to be fruitless, with a player like Ronaldo always poised to change things (and you know it would be just like him to ruin our parade twice in the same week). But the U.S. kept the deficit against Germany to one and Portugal couldn’t increase its margin by more than one. It may be a new thing for Americans to cheer a loss, but this was a defensive performance to be celebrated.

Related: 15 Crazy Hardcore Fans at the 2014 World Cup

2. Tim Howard is Superman. Howard has been an amazing keeper for a good long while now and his work in this World Cup has been immaculate…and sometimes too easy to overlook. Generally speaking, goalkeeper is a bizarre position. As a keeper, you play almost entirely a different game than everyone else on the field (though you need some foot skills, too). People talk about amazing keepers, but keepers are never player of the year (and defenders in general are rarely lauded). Howard took a lot of punishment early in his career for failing to make a lousy Man U side better, but he’s been great for Everton for years now and for the U.S. team for as long as many soccer fans can remember. Against Germany, the U.S. needed Howard to be Superman, and he was.

3. Germany’s Thomas Muller is level with Messi and Neymar as the tournament’s top scorer. The thing with Muller is that he just seems like a guy in the sales department who’s super into running. He’s not flashy or flamboyant, and his playing style is to be under the radar. But with his spectacular rebound rocket, he not only put Americans into cardiac arrest, but also put himself level with the two biggest stars remaining at the tournament. 

4. Here’s how the U.S. can progress to the final. Well, first, let’s be straight here…I don’t really expect the U.S. to do any better than a quarterfinal appearance, but there is a way they can make it further. After having survived the “Group of Death,” the U.S. team actually does not have the worst of luck in its round of 16 draw. The Belgian squad is a group of talented players, but despite topping their (relatively weak) group with a 100 percent record, they’ve yet to be 100 percent convincing as a team. If the U.S. can get past Belgium, the winner of Argentina vs. Switzerland awaits. Argentina brings a fearsome reputation and an equally unblemished record, but they’ve been extremely reliant on Messi ... and the little man can’t turn it on every single game. In the other portion of the bracket, if Mexico takes out the Dutch, the U.S. has already proven it can beat Mexico and has no reason to fear them in the semis. In the final, we could face hosts Brazil, or a potential rematch with the Germans. It won’t happen…but it could…

Related: World Cup 2014: Your Guide to All 32 Teams

5. Another underdog goes through. Algeria joins Costa Rica in the ranks of overachievers at World Cup 2014. Many pegged the North African team to finish at the bottom of their group, but they destroyed an overmatched South Korea and held a misfiring Russian team to a draw — enough to get through to the round of 16. A game against Germany is their reward.

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Product Director at The Fiscal Times, Josh Herr also writes about the business of sports, culture, entertainment and music.