There was speculation whether Germany would play for a draw on Thursday to advance to the World Cup Round of 16 as the leader of Group G. Minutes into the match there was little doubt that the German national soccer team was playing to win.
But win, lose or draw, fans – and even some non-fans – just wanted to see the United States men’s national team get to the next round.
So there was plenty of joy when, despite a 1-0 loss to Germany, the U.S. advanced when Portugal beat Ghana 2-1.
Terry Hoey, a production manager at Regions Bank, took off work to watch the World Cup at the London Bridge Pub. He offered his staff the chance to do the same.
“I’m not even a soccer fan, but this is just such an event,” Hoey said. “This is like the Super Bowl for the rest of the world.”
For Alex Ribiakost, 26, there was no place better to watch than WakeMed Soccer Park, where he returned after watching the U.S. avenge consecutive World Cup losses to Ghana with a 2-1 victory.
“This is better than watching it at home or even a bar,” said Ribiakost, a Web developer from Raleigh decorated in USA-themed gear with his blue cap, red shirt, white socks and blue shoes.
There were a lot of wide eyes, gasps and eventually sighs of relief, throughout the entire first half as an aggressive Germany team dominated the ball and continued to get shots on goal. Fortunately for the U.S., if a defender didn’t stop the ball, goalkeeper Tim Howard did.
Howard defended the goal “as expected for a world-class goalie,” said Derek Duin, 47, a sales engineer from Cary and USA soccer fan sporting his team soccer jersey and a red, white and blue cap.
Duin said the first half went as planned. With Portugal’s 1-0 halftime lead over Ghana and a scoreless tie between the U.S. and Germany, “It’s all good right now,” he said.
“I’ll be happy with a zero-zero tie.”
In the 55th minute, his hopes of a scoreless tie were shattered. After Howard deflected a potential goal, it bounced to the foot of Thomas Müller, who scored the game’s lone goal.
The cheers that followed Howard’s save immediately shifted into groans, as the goal eventually put the U.S. team’s fate into the hands of Portugal and Ghana.
But Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo made amends for the cross that led to a tying goal against the U.S. on Sunday with his game-winning goal in the 80th minute against Ghana, advancing the U.S. to the next round because of the goal differential tiebreaker.
The U.S. survived the “Group of Death” and will play against the Group H winner at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
“The entire game I was thinking it was only a matter of time,” said Luke Waddell, 24, a teacher and soccer coach from Clayton. “Germany has a good squad. It (the loss to Germany) was expected. I’m happy it was a 1-0 loss.”
Clare Myers contributed to this article.