The U.S. was considered an outsider going into the tournament but veteran goalkeeper Howard insisted that failing to capitalize on second place in Group G – labeled the Group of Death before the tournament – would be a massive disappointment.
“We have still got a lot left in us,” Howard said. “We go again. We get to the round of 16 and it shows how far we have come – that we are not happy just getting there, we want to progress.
“This was a tough game in tough conditions. Germany have a chance to win the World Cup, that’s how good they are. We have still got more left.”
Jurgen Klinsmann’s Americans scraped into the round of 16 on goal difference ahead of Portugal, but had to survive some nerve-wracking moments on Thursday afternoon. Had Ghana managed to beat Portugal, instead of losing 2-1 thanks to a late Cristiano Ronaldo winner, the U.S. would be packing its bags.
Now it has the opportunity to go one better than in 2010, when it lost to Ghana in the last 16. To do so, however, it must likely get past Belgium, the overwhelming favorite to win Group H.
“I am proud of the group and now we move on,” Howard added. “We have a great opportunity and we control our own destiny. That is a good feeling to have.”
It was a slightly odd scene at Arena Pernambuco, with players and coaches from both teams celebrating on the field after the final whistle, although the joy was tempered somewhat by the fact that Thomas Mueller’s 57th minute goal had given the Germans what was ultimately a comfortable victory.
“It was joy, relief and pride in the effort that we put through,” defender Matt Besler said. “We didn’t qualify just because of this game but because of all three games.”
For the U.S., fatigue may have been a factor. It will need a significantly better performance if the team is going to make headway in the knockout bracket.
Belgium is a world-class team that has been widely tipped to go deep, but midfielder Jermaine Jones insisted the U.S. would go all-out in pursuit of victory.
“You have to see it like a final – if you lose it then you are out,” Jones said. “We have to go in having respect, but we cannot be scared. In one game, anything can happen. It is not like you can say there is a favorite.”
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