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June 23, 2010
U.S. tops Group, advances to Round of 16

For the second time in as many games, Landon Donovanís heroics kept the U.S. alive at World Cup 2010.
For the second time in as many games, Landon Donovanís heroics kept the U.S. alive at World Cup 2010.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images.
PRETORIA, South AfricaóNinety-plus minutes of frustration and heartbreak vanished in a millisecond of stoppage time Wednesday, as Landon Donovan slammed home the 1-0 game-winner against Algeria to give the U.S.A. first place in Group C and a Round of 16 date Saturday (2:30 pm. ET) against the second-place finisher in Group D.

The U.S. fans who rocked Loftus Versfeld Stadium as Donovanís strike crossed the line were chewing their nails seconds before, as the clock wound down on what appeared to be a scoreless draw that would have eliminated the U.S. from World Cup 2010. England was second away from defeating Slovenia 1-0, which would have left the United States in third place. And for the second straight game, the United States had a goal called back on highly questionable grounds, this one 20th-minute tally by Clint Dempsey that was blown dead for what television replays revealed to be a bad offside call.

Donovanís game-winner came off a wild end-to-end sequence started by U.S. netminder Tim Howard, who heaved the ball upfield to Donovan. Donovan fed Jozy Altidore, who took a shot from the right side. Dempsey crashed in for the rebound, getting off a shot that was blocked by goalkeeper Rais M Bolhi into Donovanís path for an unstoppable finish from right off the line.

The result left the United States tied with England at the top of the table with 5 points (1-0-2) and a +1 goal differential. The U.S. took the top spot by scoring more total goals, four to Englandís two.

After dodging an early bullet that saw Algeriaís Rafik Djebbour outrun Jay DeMerit and get position on Steve Cherundolo for an open volley that cracked off the bar in the sixth minute, the U.S. dominated the match, putting ten shots on goal to Algeriaís four. Altidore sent a wide-open attempt off frame in the 37th minute, and Dempsey followed his own shot off the post with a blown sitter off the rebound in the 57th.

As the U.S. attack became more frantic, M Bolhi became even more of a factor for the Africans, thwarting both Altidore and substitute Edson Buddle inside the six-yard box in the 68th minute, stopping the close-range attempt and falling on the ball before either player could get a toe on it. Altidore sent a dangerous ball into the box barely two minutes later, which defender Madjid Bougherra blocked just wide of his own net, and it looked more and more like it wasnít the USAís day. Free kicks went high of straight to Mbholi, passes were picked off, and a punch that split Dempseyís lip in the 83rd minute went unseen by the referee.

Donovan played little role in the proceedings for most of the second half, but in the end, as he had against Slovenia, he did what needed to be done to keep the U.S. alive, and allow them to win their World Cup group for the first time in 70 years.

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