Recife, Brazil (4E Sports) – Thomas Muller scored in the second half to help Germany claim top spot in Group G via a 1-0 win over the United States Thursday at Arena Pernambuco.
Muller netted superbly from 18 yards for his fourth goal of the tournament as Germany finished the qualifying round with seven points.
Despite the loss, the Americans also advanced to the knockout stage, beating Portugal on goal difference. Portugal defeated Ghana, 2-1, but it was not enough to edge the United States.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s side needed only a draw to ensure their place in the round of 16 for the second consecutive tournament as Group G runners-up.
The Americans will face the winners of Group H in Salvador Tuesday, which will likely to be Belgium.
Algeria, South Korea and Russia all remain in the hunt to face Germany 24 hours earlier in Porto Alegre.
Any fear of collusion between the Americans and Germans was brushed aside by a keenly contested affair.
Joachim Low handed Lukas Podolski a first start of the tournament on the left side of his attack and the Arsenal forward blazed over in the second minute, as Germany pinned back its opponents during the opening stages.
Omar Gonzalez, preferred at center-back to Geoff Cameron by Klinsmann, made a vital 14th-minute interception when Muller looked set to convert Jerome Boateng’s low cross.
However. the Americans turned its game into a counter-attacking force and Graham Zusi arched a shot narrowly over from the left corner of the box midway through the first half.
At half-time, Low introduced veteran striker Miroslav Klose, hunting for an outright claim to the all-time World Cup finals goal record following his equalizer against Ghana last Saturday.
Gonzalez produced another vital intervention in the 48th minute to stop Ozil heading Germany in front, while Klose was unable to adjust in time to convert Philipp Lahm’s cross.
Pressure told in the 55th minute when Muller smashed home emphatically from the edge of the box after Howard had parried Per Mertesacker’s header.
Meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal saw Portugal beat Ghana in Brasilia, but it proved futile as both sides crashed out of the World Cup.