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United States’ Jermaine Jones battles for the ball against Germany’s Bastian Schweinsteiger during the Group G World Cup soccer match between the USA and Germany at the Arena Pernambuco in Recife, Brazil on June 26. (AP)
PORTUGAL PIP GHANA, BOTH SIDES BOW OUT Germany, US into 2nd round

RECIFE, Brazil, June 26, (Agencies): Germany’s Thomas Mueller scored his fourth World Cup goal to pull level with Lionel Messi and Neymar in a 1-0 win over United States on Thursday that gave his side top spot in Group G. The United States, coached by former German boss Jurgen Klinsmann, also went through to the last 16 despite the defeat in rain-sodden Recife. Portugal’s 2-1 victory over Ghana was not enough to overtake the Americans in second place. “It’s huge getting out of this group,” said Klinsmann after the game as he hailed his side’s World Cup performance so far.

The lead-up to this match had focused on suspicions that the Germans and Americans would be happy with a draw that would give both sides an easy path through to the next round. Klinsmann’s friendship with his former assistant German coach Joachim Loew had reinforced the conspiracy theories. But Germany dominated the match in the washed-out Arena Pernambuco. US goalkeeper Tim Howard repeatedly kept his side in the game for 55 minutes until Mueller broke the deadlock.

A well-worked corner saw Howard save from Per Mertesacker’s header. The rebound went to Mueller on the edge of the penalty area who made no mistake with a powerful first-time shot that flew past the flying goalkeeper into his left corner. Germany could have had several goals in an entertaining first half in which Howard played the key role. Mueller, playing as a lone striker, had several chances to score including a flying bicycle kick from a cross on the right after just two minutes. Lukas Podolski was given his first start of the tournament and after latching on to Mesut Ozil’s ball on eight minutes he whipped in a drive for Mueller, who just failed to connect as Howard dived low to collect.
 
The United States soaked up the early pressure, and on a rare foray midfield orchestrator Michael Bradley sent Graham Zusi through on the left for the winger to unleash a drive that sailed just over Manuel Neuer’s crossbar. Howard was called into action twice before the half-time whistle, collecting an Ozil snap-shot down low before stopping Podolski’s drive for Mueller across the face of goal after a defence-splitting pass by Mats Hummels. Podolski made way to Miroslav Klose at half-time, giving the veteran German striker a chance to pull ahead of Ronaldo with a new record of 16 World Cup goals.
After only six minutes Klose connected with Kroos’s flighted ball in towards the back post but produced only a glancing header that sailed wide of Howard’s upright.
 
After Mueller’s brilliant goal, Germany continued to dominate and US frustrations grew. Left winger Brad Davis was replaced on the hour by Alejandro Bedoya, who was lucky to escape with a warning after fouling Bastian Schweinsteiger. Beckerman was then cautioned for a foul on Schweinsteiger, who was later replaced by Mario Goetze. US hopes were finally raised on the stroke of full time but Philipp Lahm produced a superb sliding tackle to block Bedoya after a counter down the right. From the resulting corner, Bradley whipped in across that saw Neuer tip over from Dempsey’s close-range header. Meanwhile, An own goal by John Boye and a late strike by Cristiano Ronaldo gave Portugal a 2-1 win over incident-hit Ghana on Thursday but it was not enough to make the second round as both sides exited the World Cup.
 
Portugal finished level on four points with the United States in Group G but the Americans advanced to the last 16 courtesy of a better goal difference despite their 1-0 loss to group winners Germany in Recife. Boye’s poor attempt at a first half clearance summed up a disappointing match between two teams who needed big victories in the Brazilian capital to have a chance of advancing. The defender swiped at a 31st minute cross from Portuguese fullback Miguel Veloso which hit his knee and then the crossbar before nestling in the back of the net. The goal came after a Ghana break ended when Bahrain official Nawaf Shukralla accidentally blocked an attempted pass, handing possession to the Portuguese who went up field and scored. The Ghanaians improved after the break and striker Asamoah Gyan headed them level at the back post after a brilliant cross with the outside of his foot by Kwadwo Asamoah in the 57th minute.
 
Gyan then turned provider, putting in another ball from the left for an unmarked Abdul Majeed Waris moments later but the striker could only steer his header wide from six yards out. The wasted effort proved costly as Portugal skipper and World Player-of-the-Year Ronaldo smashed his side ahead in the 80th minute after Ghana goalkeeper Fatawu Dauda flapped at a high ball, sending it straight to the Real Madrid forward. Ronaldo should have had another minutes later but Dauda was on hand to parry the forward’s side footed effort from close range, with the keeper also blocking an effort from the skipper in the dying stages. The World Cup exit completed a miserable two days for the Africans who were embroiled in a pay row and kicked out midfielders Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari for ill-discipline hours before Thursday’s kick-off.
 
World Cup Results/Standings
Results
Germany 1 USA 0
Portugal 2 Ghana
Standings
Group A
P W D L GF GA Pts
Brazil* 3 2 1 0 7 2 7
Mexico* 3 2 1 0 4 1 7
Croatia 3 1 0 2 6 6 3
Cameroon 3 0 0 3 1 9 0
Group B
P W D L GF GA Pts
Netherlands* 3 3 0 0 10 3 9
Chile* 3 2 0 1 5 3 6
Spain 3 1 0 2 4 7 3
Australia 3 0 0 3 3 9 0
Group C
P W D L GF GA Pts
Colombia* 3 3 0 0 9 2 9
Greece* 3 1 1 1 2 4 4
Ivory Coast 3 1 0 2 4 5 3
Japan 3 0 1 2 2 6 1
Group D
P W D L GF GA Pts
Costa Rica* 3 2 1 0 4 1 7
Uruguay* 3 2 0 1 4 4 6
Italy 3 1 0 2 2 3 3
England 3 0 1 2 2 4 1
Group E
P W D L GF GA Pts
France* 3 2 1 0 8 2 7
Switzerland* 3 2 0 1 7 6 6
Ecuador 3 1 1 1 3 3 4
Honduras 3 0 0 3 1 8 0
Group F
P W D L GF GA Pts
Argentina* 3 3 0 0 6 3 9
Nigeria* 3 1 1 1 3 3 4
Bosnia 3 1 0 2 4 4 3
Iran 3 0 1 2 1 4 1
Group G
P W D L GF GA Pts
Germany* 3 2 1 0 7 2 7
United States* 3 1 1 0 4 4 4
Portugal 3 1 1 1 4 7 4
Ghana 3 0 1 2 4 6 1
Group H
P W D L GF GA Pts
Belgium* 2 2 0 0 3 1 6
Algeria 2 1 0 1 5 4 3
Russia 2 0 1 1 1 2 1
South Korea 2 0 1 1 3 5 1
Note 1: Standings read as played, won, drawn, lost, goals for, goals against and points.
Note 2: * – Denotes qualified for last 16. (RTRS)

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