(Wednesday, June 23)
Final Score: United States 1, Algeria 0
Pretoria, South Africa (Sports Network) - The United States completed its FIFA World Cup group stage with a 1-0 win over Algeria on Wednesday at Loftus Versfeld Stadium thanks to a 91st-minute winner from Landon Donovan.
With the U.S. pressing, needing the win to advance to the second round, a counter-attacking goal by Donovan in second-half stoppage time put the Americans through.
U.S. striker Jozy Altidore crossed to Clint Dempsey on the odd-man rush after receiving the ball from Donovan. After Dempsey's shot from in tight was stuffed by goalkeeper Rais M'Bolhi, the ball was left lying in the six- yard box for Donovan to sweep in for the game-winner.
"Of course, we should have and could have scored earlier, which would have spared us that dramatic ending," Donovan said. "In the end, though, it's a good thing that it happened that way, so quickly. I didn't even have time to think what I was going to do. Being in the right place and putting the ball in the net just came naturally. The best thing for us to do now is to rest because we really need it, but I can assure you that we'll be ready for the next round."
Donovan's 44th career international goal clinched Group C's top seed for the Americans, who play Group D runner-up Ghana in the knockout round on Saturday.
Thanks to its 1-0 win over Slovenia, which was played at the same time as the U.S. game, England earned Group C's runner-up slot and plays Group D winner Germany on Sunday. Slovenia and Algeria were eliminated.
"The people of Algeria can be proud of their national team, even if there's a certain frustration," Algeria defender and captain Anther Yahia said. "The final result sticks in my throat because we had a chance of going through, but we don't have any regrets about how we played. We have to keep our feet on the ground, however, as Algeria aren't Brazil or Argentina. We're a good team and we need to be optimistic about the future. We have solid foundations."
The U.S., which fell behind early in its first two group matches to England and Slovenia, almost continued the trend vs. Algeria when Rafik Djebbour drilled a shot off the crossbar just six minutes in. Djebbour earned the chance after U.S. central defender Jay DeMerit misjudged a long ball, letting it get over his head to the Algeria striker, whose shot went just high.
Donovan had his team's first chance when he ripped a shot well over the bar in the 18th minute as the Americans started to find their legs.
The U.S. had a flurry of chances in the 20th minute after midfielder Michael Bradley drove into the Algeria penalty area and was stuffed by the defense. But the ball popped out to striker Herculez Gomez, whose shot was parried right back to him by M'Bolhi. Gomez then fired across the six to Dempsey, who knocked the ball home, but the goal was waived off for offsides.
The U.S., which carried the majority of the possession in the opening half, had another opportunity in the 37th when Bradley flicked a nice ball to Donovan breaking into the Algeria area. After M'Bolhi made the initial save, Altidore knocked the rebound over the bar with a wide open net staring him in the face.
Algeria forward Karim Ziani had a chance just before the break, but his shot from about 25 yards went high and wide.
Dempsey had another glorious chance for the U.S. in the 57th minute after an Altidore cross was left at the top of the 18 by the defense, but his shot went off the right post before he knocked the rebound high.
Just after the hour mark, U.S. defender Carlos Bocanegra slid to knock away an Algeria cross from the left side headed to Djebbour, who would have had only U.S. 'keeper Howard to beat and the game remained scoreless.
About 20 minutes from time, U.S. substitute Edson Buddle had a header from in tight go right at M'Bolhi after a Steve Cherundolo cross from the left. Ziani ripped another long shot just wide on the counter for Algeria
The U.S. had a couple free kicks in the closing minutes from just outside the area, but was unable to capitalize and get the all-important goal before Donovan's winner in the closing seconds.
"These guys never give up and they showed that again today," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. "I was worried because we could have gone away empty-handed, but my players decided otherwise and never stopped believing. We're proud to finish first in the group on five points, and we're already prepared to go further."
06/23 16:25:06 ET