USA vs. Algeria at World Cup: Landon Donovan's goal means Americans advance
Thursday, June 24, 2010
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA -- The U.S. World Cup campaign was coming to an unbearable end Wednesday, with 90-plus minutes of maddening soccer failing to yield the goal needed to secure passage to the next round.
One shot had kissed the right post, another streaked past an open net and many more were foiled by Algeria's unshakable goalkeeper. A dubious officiating call had, for the second consecutive match, erased an apparent goal.
The other Group C match, unfolding simultaneously 761 miles away, was not breaking in the Americans' favor either, and with each squandered opportunity in South Africa's capital city, the outlook grew bleaker. A tie would do them no good.
"There are times," U.S. Coach Bob Bradley admitted later, "that you just say maybe it's not our night."
Twelve seconds made it their night, 12 seconds to move the ball from one end of Loftus Versfeld Stadium to the other and provide one of the most extraordinary and dramatic endings in the national team's 94-year history.
The astounding finish left the U.S. team (1-0-2) atop its group for the first time in the modern era and set up a round-of-16 match against Ghana, the Group D runner-up with a 1-1-1 record, Saturday (2:30 p.m. EDT) in the northern city of Rustenburg.
The United States and England, a 1-0 winner over Slovenia in Port Elizabeth, finished with the same record, but the Americans had a superior goal total (4-2) in round-robin play. The star-filled English squad, which entered the tournament as the group favorite and a serious contender to win its first title in 44 years, will face longtime nemesis Germany on Sunday.
Wednesday's outcome added another gripping chapter to the 2010 U.S. story. In the opener, the Americans benefited from a goalkeeping blunder and used a courageous defensive effort in the second half to tie England, 1-1. Six days later against Slovenia, they erased a two-goal halftime deficit and had an apparent go-ahead goal in the 85th minute nullified by an unexplained foul call.
And against Algeria, after failing to capitalize on abundant opportunities and surviving a couple of scares, the Americans traversed the length of the field to score at the beginning of the four minutes added to regulation time (compensation for injuries and other delays).
Tim Howard saved Rafik Saifi's header and tossed an outlet pass to Donovan in stride at midfield. Donovan accelerated into the open field before touching the ball to Jozy Altidore on the right side of the penalty area.
Altidore drove a cross toward Clint Dempsey, who met the ball at almost the same time as charging goalkeeper Rais M'Bolhi.