Mueller strikes for Germany, Algeria, US advance
RECIFE - Agence France-Presse
Algeria's players embrace as they celebrate after their team's victory in the Group H football match between Algeria and Russia at The Baixada Arena in Curitiba on June 26. AFP PhotoGermany striker Thomas Mueller joined Neymar and Lionel Messi on top of the World Cup goalscoring charts on June 26 as Algeria stunned Russia to reach the second round for the first time.
Mueller's long-range strike settled a 1-0 victory over the United States which saw the Germans claim first place in Group G ahead of the Americans, who squeezed into the last 16 on goal difference ahead of Portugal.
It was Mueller's fourth goal of the tournament and the ninth World Cup goal of his career after he finished top-scorer in the 2010 finals.
"We were clearly the dominant team on the pitch," Mueller said after a victory which sets up a second round meeting with Algeria. "The Americans were strong, especially at the start and it was hard to play against them as they stood so deep, but all in all, we played well.
"We have big plans, with our team spirit and a bit of luck we can go far." Despite the defeat, United States players and coaching staff celebrated at their achievement in progressing from a difficult group in which they had been expected to struggle.
"It's huge getting out of this group," said United States' coach Jurgen Klinsmann. "Everybody said 'You have no chance' but we took our chance and now we move on and we really want to prove a point," added Klinsmann, whose side now play Belgium in the next round.
While Germany and the United States celebrated, there was disappointment for world footballer of the year Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Portugal captain scored his first goal of the tournament in a 2-1 win over Ghana but it was not enough to prevent his side exiting in the first round.
Portugal had needed a big win over Ghana, but Ronaldo's normally unerring eye for goal deserted him. The Real Madrid star missing several promising openings.
"The match today was a match we tried to win and we did win. We created many opportunities but we could not finish them all," said a disappointed Ronaldo.
"We knew we had to score three goals and we were depending on the result of the Germany game. "We knew it was complicated but what's left at the end shows that it was possible considering the number of opportunities we created during the game."
The defeat completed a miserable campaign for 2010 quarter-finalists Ghana, who never recovered after losing 2-1 to the United States in their opening match.
A row over player bonuses earlier this week led to the bizarre spectacle of $3 million being airlifted to the squad from Ghana ahead of the Portugal match. Just hours before kick-off stars Sulley Muntari and Kevin Prince Boateng were axed from the squad for indiscipline.
Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah denied the expulsions had damaged his team's morale ahead of a must-win match. "I don't think it had any impact on the game. The boys played well. They had a few chances but we couldn't take them," Appiah said.
Capello blames laser beam
The shock of the day came in Group H, where Algeria reached the last 16 for the first time in their history as Islam Slimani's second-half header earned them a 1-1 draw against Russia in Curitiba.
Alexander Kokorin put the Russians in front after just six minutes with an accurate header into the top corner.
However, Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev's nightmare tournament continued when he completely missed Yacine Brahimi's free-kick allowing Slimani to nod home his second goal of the tournament.
Russia boss Fabio Capello said there was no doubt Akinfeev had been distracted by a green laser beam shone in his face.
"He was blinded by the laser beam. There are pictures and you can see that in the footage," said the Italian. "It is not an excuse. The goalkeeper was unable to do his job. The laser beam was in his face."
Belgium secured top spot in Group H with a 1-0 defeat of South Korea in Sao Paulo which preserved their 100 percent record.
"We fulfilled our mission with nine points," said Belgian coach Marc Wilmots. "It's never happened before and what's important for me is whether we can get into the quarter-finals. I don't care about anything else."