Jurgen Klinsmann revelled in one of the sweetest defeats of his career as the United States joined Germany in the last 16 of the World Cup, despite losing 1-0 on Thursday.
With Portugal managing only a 2-1 win over Ghana, it proved to be a harmless loss for the German manager, who received the praise of a nation warming more and more to soccer.
Even president Barack Obama sent his congratulations via Twitter after watching the game during a flight on Air Force One. He was part of what was likely to be a new record television audience in the States for a football game, after the game against Portugal had already smashed the previous best.
“It’s overwhelming,” Klinsmann said post-match. “It’s absolutely immense for us to come through this group.”
In arguably his most joyous moment since leading Germany to third place at the 2006 World Cup, Klinsmann nevertheless managed to find points for improvement.
“We’ve made it through, but we can still get better,” he said. “We wanted to get a draw out of the game, but we showed them too much respect to begin with.
“We created too few chances, unfortunately. And we could have done with a bit more possession.”
There were several aspects that did not please Germany coach Joachim Low either, in particular the performance of Arsenal’s Lukas Podolski.
“He just couldn’t get into the game, so that’s why I had to take him off at half-time,” said Low, who replaced Klinsmann as Germany coach in 2006 and has led them to at least the semi-finals in the three major tournaments since.
“We controlled the game and we deserved to win,” he added. “However, our final ball wasn’t good enough.”
Nevertheless, finishing a group which also included Portugal and Ghana with two wins and a draw is something Germany can be proud about, according to defender Mats Hummels.
“We knew that the Americans are strong opponents, but we hardly allowed them a chance today,” he said.
“Now we can look back on a good record in the group. We would have taken seven points before the World Cup started.”
Finishing top of Group G means Germany have time until Tuesday to prepare for their last-16 encounter with Algeria in Porto Alegre, but their World Cup is not meant to end there.
“We’ve still got big ambitions,” said match-winner Thomas Muller to Germany’s ZDF television. “With the team spirit we’ve got, and a bit of luck, we can go a long, long way.”