DHAKA: If there were conspiracy theories running around about Germany doing their former coach and legendary player Jurgen Klinsmann a favour by playing out a draw with USA, they clearly didn't hear it. The German juggernaut roared forward from minute one, even if they managed only one goal, with the 1-0 result enough to send Germany and USA through to the last 16, and knock Portugal and Ghana out.
The second game in Brasilia ended 2-1 in Portugal's favour, but with Cristiano Ronaldo and co. needing a five-goal swing to top USA at the beginning of the day, it was not even remotely enough to keep them alive. USA went through on goal difference from Portugal, who like the Americans, ended on four points, with Germany topping Group G with seven points from three matches.
It was a frustrating night for Portugal, who threw the kitchen sink at 2010 World Cup quarterfinalists Ghana, who finished with just a solitary point, and on another day, without exaggeration, Ronaldo himself could have easily had five goals to his name. But the Portugal talisman kept finding the goalkeeper or missing the target, with his lone goal turning out to be the winner, after Asamoah Gyan had equalised following John Boye's own goal in the first half.
For Germany, normal service resumed after their nervy 2-2 draw against Ghana, with Thomas Muller's wonderful strike giving them three points and top spot. Germany will now most likely avoid Belgium in the pre-quarterfinals, with one of Algeria, Russia or South Korea looking like the most likely opponents.
As the USA vs Germany match got off to a blazing start courtesy the Europeans, the Portugal vs Ghana took a little while longer to warm-up. Neither side really wanted to leave themselves open for the early goal and with it get stuck behind the eight ball.
However, Portugal, with a few changes to their side, particularly the inclusion of William Carvalho to their midfield base, nearly took the lead via their star man Ronaldo, whose cross/shot from the right hit the crossbar.
Ronaldo took a couple of potshots more, but the main man should have given Portugal the lead on 19 minutes. Left all alone inside the penalty box and with the entire goal to hit, Ronaldo headed the ball from six yards out straight at Ghana goalkeeper Fatawu Dauda, who made a brilliant save and then followed that up with an even better celebration.
Seconds later, Ghana's talisman Asamoah Gyan nearly gave his side the lead, but his shot from inside the box was kept out by the feet of Portugal's goalkeeper Beto.
Ronaldo forced another save from Dauda at the other end, and the game littered with a foul every other minute and a chance the next, finally got its goal in the 31st minute – not via Ronaldo, or Gyan, but an unfortunate own goal.
Joao Moutinho did well to keep possession and shift the ball to left-back Miguel Veloso, whose bouncing cross was turned acrobatically into his own net by John Boye off his thigh. Portugal, sensing Ghana's nervousness, kept their foot on the accelerator but could not find the second goal, despite Boye's best efforts with the defender nearly scoring a second own goal, slicing a clearance just over the bar.
But as long as it remained 0-0 in Recife, Portugal's goals, no matter how many, would matter little. It was not for the want of trying, though, as Germany got off the blocks in stunning fashion, putting USA under the cosh, with only the elusive goal not coming.
Muller got close to add to his three-goal tally at the World Cup a couple of times, with Lukas Podolski, in for Mario Gotze, swinging in quite a few crosses from the left without really finding the right man at the right time.
USA regained a little more control as the game wore on, but they did not have too many chances to show for it, with Graham Zusi coming the closest, firing his effort from just outside the box a little over Manuel Neuer, who looked quite worried as the ball zipped past him.
Portugal's hopes of pulling a rabbit out of the hat increased in the 55th minute of the game in Recife, as Muller grabbed his fourth goal of the World Cup with a wonderful 20-yard strike, stroking the ball home after it had landed perfectly for him following a brilliant save from Tim Howard to deny Per Mertesacker.
However, a couple of minutes later in their own game, Portugal's hopes of staying alive were dashed with Asamoah Gyan rising to head in a cross from Kwado Asamoah. It was Ghana, troubled majorly by off-field issues, now who had more of a chance of qualifying, if only they could get another goal and also hope Germany bulge their lead.
It was Portugal, though, inevitably who would retake the lead in the 80th minute, with Ronaldo finally getting his World Cup goal and his 50th international strike, thumping the ball home after a poor palm down from Dauda, reports .ibtimes.co.in.
That goal pretty much ended Ghana's hopes of qualification and with Portugal's chances virtually non-existent – they needed a three-goal swing in the final ten minutes to overhaul USA's goal difference – it was curtains for the two teams, and joy for Germany and USA.
BDST: 1005 HRS, JUN 27, 2014