World Cup Miracle: Could the U.S. Win the Whole Thing?

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Oh my, scratch the obits – on both sides of the pond.

It was an electric moment: With U.S. hopes for advancing to the knockout stage of the World Cup all but dead, Landon Donovan knocked in a goal on a desperate breakaway during extra time of America’s final first round game, against Algeria, giving the U.S. a 1-0 win and spot in the next round of the World Cup.

England, who beat Slovenia 1-0 in its final contest, also moves on. Disaster averted, for both proud nations. (See our favorite World Cup photos)

For a brief period of time, the Americans looked done. But just like that, they still have a shot at the title. And after working through the amazing adversity thrown at them during the last two matches of this Cup, who is to say they can’t win the whole thing?

Since the U.S. beat Spain at the 2009 Confederations Cup, in what looked like the friendly confines of South Africa, expectations for the U.S. soccer soared. After crassly underperforming at the last World Cup, in Germany, this would be the year for redemption. More Americans than ever were watching soccer, caring about soccer, turning to the web to share in the soccer experience. This was the turning point in U.S. soccer history.

But it looked like the U.S. was going to get screwed, as a first half goal by Clint Dempsey was erased by a wrongheaded offsides call. Can these refs just swallow their whistles, for once? Was this error, combined with the tragic call by Koman Coulibaly in the Slovenia game, going to cost the U.S. a trip to the next round?

At the end of the day, however, the Americans would not have been able to pin all the blame on the refs for their failure to notch a single win in this World Cup. Remember, the Americans received their fair share of luck in this tournament. Are we so quick to forget the wobbly fingers of England goalkeeper Robert Green, whose now-legendary (and, since England advanced, forgivable) flub gifted the U.S. with a 1-1 tie? How about Algeria’s Rafik Djebbour hitting the crossbar in the sixth minute of this game? This surely looked like a goal.

And the Americas missed layups. Jozy Altidore has an easy point-blank chance in the first half, and he blew it. In the second half, Clint Dempsey hit the right post on one shot, then missed the put-back. Great players, good teams, put those in the net.

Then Donovan did it again. His power goal against Slovenia, which cut that country’s seemingly insurmountable 2-0 lead in half, was tremendous. This one against Algeria, off a rebound of a Altidore strike, was legendary. To its credit, U.S. never stopped battling during the waning minutes of what looked like a demoralizing draw against Algeria. And this time, the Americans were good enough to score the goal they needed.

How many more do they have in the bag?

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