Oh So Close


AP Sports Writer

MANAUS, Brazil – They were less than 30 seconds away.

The Americans were about to romp into the round of 16 at the World Cup, about to walk off with their first come-from-behind win at soccer’s showcase. About to advance with a game to spare. About to win consecutive World Cup games for the first time since 1930.

But they wilted in the Amazon heat and humidity.

Varela’s goal on a diving header off Cristiano Ronaldo’s cross on the game’s last play gave Portugal a 2-2 tie Sunday on an exhausting night in the rainforest capital.

“We had one foot in the door,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said.

Now the Americans may need at least a point Thursday against Germany to advance to the knockout stage. They could advance with a loss, depending on the result of the Portugal-Ghana game that will be played simultaneously.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann called it “a little bit of a bummer.”

“Obviously we’re disappointed, but at the end of the day you’ve got to look at the positives: We got a point,” American captain Clint Dempsey said. “We put in a good performance. I thought we played better than the last game. I thought we moved the ball better. I thought we created more chances. Just unlucky.”

Germany and the Americans both have four points, but the Germans have a better goal difference. Ghana, which lost 2-1 to the U.S., has one point, as does Portugal.

Both the Americans and Germans would advance with a draw. Klinsmann dismissed the notion that he would discuss the match ahead of time with Germany coach Joachim Loew, his assistant on his homeland’s 2006 World Cup team.

“There’s no time right now for friendship calls,” Klinsmann said. “It’s about business now.”

The U.S. fell behind early, when Geoff Cameron’s wayward clearance gifted Nani a fifth-minute goal.

But Jermaine Jones’ exquisite 28-yard shot tucked inside the far post in the 64th minute and Dempsey’s goal off his stomach in the 86th, his second of the tournament and fourth of his World Cup career, put the Americans ahead 2-1. A screaming, pro-American majority in the crowd of 40,123 was ready to party late into the steamy night.

Then Varela beat Cameron to the cross, deflating the red, white and blue-clad fans.

“It was unfortunate,” Klinsmann said, “An amazing game, amazing performance by our guys. Nothing more that you can ask for. We just go it the tougher way. We’ve got to go and we’ve got to beat Germany, get a result against Germany, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Just like four years ago, the Americans relied on a late push. But they couldn’t sustain it.

Now it’s onto Recife. Nothing is decided.

“We are capable to surprise even more teams in this tournament,” Klinsmann said.

They could move on. Or after all this, they could be sent home.

Belgian 1, Russia 0

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – Teenage forward Divock Origi turned a listless Belgian performance into a late 1-0 win over Russia on Sunday, enough to qualify for the next round of the World Cup with two straight victories.

Belgium barely contained a reinvigorated Russia for most of the match, yet struck with a blistering final spurt of class and opportunism to turn a bad situation into a wild celebration for coach Marc Wilmots in the 88th minute and hugs all around at the fulltime.

After its dour 1-1 draw with South Korea, Russia produced the kind of sparkle and dominance that most had been expected more from Belgium in front of 73,819 increasingly restless fans at Maracana stadium.

With Belgian King Philippe looking on, substitute Kevin Mirallas hit a freekick against the post in 84th minute, setting off a late revival. At first it looked like late moves from Eden Hazard would only camouflage a dismal performance.

But then the playmaker made a move into the area on the left and spotted Origi free in the center. A pinpoint pass from Hazard and cool right-foot finishing from the 19-year-old Origi gave Belgium more than it deserved.

Algeria 4, South Korea 2

PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) – Islam Slimani scored one goal and made two more as Algeria swept to a 4-2 victory over South Korea on Sunday to become the first African team to score four goals in a World Cup match.

The result gives Algeria a first World Cup win since 1982 and moves it into second place in Group H with one match left to play, against Russia.

Slimani opened the scoring with a fine solo goal after 26 minutes as his team raced into a 3-0 lead at halftime. However, it then had to withstand a South Korean fight back after the break to secure the points.

Defeat for South Korea means it must now beat already-qualified Belgium and hope that other results go its way to progress to the knockout stages.