Bill Clinton was at this game, probably reflecting for 92 minutes that he scored more often than this lot. The USA won the match and Group C in the most dramatic circumstances possible, Landon Donovan's goal relegating England to second place just when they thought they had secured the top spot. The USA left it late but there can be no arguing with the justice of the final table. England scored twice in three matches. The USA scored four, and had a perfectly good winner chalked off against Slovenia.
• Follow the Guardian's World Cup team on Twitter• Sign up to play our great Fantasy Football game• Stats centre: Get the lowdown on every player• The latest team-by-team news, features and more"I had started to think it might not be our night but we were still creating chances," the USA coach, Bob Bradley, said. "We have grown stronger as a group in this World Cup." According to his goalscorer, the USA had to take chances as well. "All we could do was keep going," Donovan said. "We were taking big risks by the end but the guys at the back did an unbelievable job of stopping counter after counter. It's not all about the guy who scores the goal."
It was a far better game than 90 scoreless minutes might suggest. It got off to an explosive start and there were chances at either end right up to Donovan's winner. Karim Matmour sent a shot narrowly over Tim Howard's bar in the first minute, and five minutes later Rafik Djebbour rattled the crossbar with an athletic volley. The latter was a good chance, particularly as Djebbour was lucky to beat the offside flag, and with only Howard in his way he might have been better taking the ball down and making sure.
Stung into action, the USA went straight to the other end and Herculez Gómez forced the first save of the game from Raïs M'bolhi. Gómez, in for the suspended Robbie Findley, then sent a volley of his own too high from Steve Cherundolo's cross.
A run from Donovan set up the clearest chance of the first half, but when his first effort was blocked Jozy Altidore took the ball off his toes and blasted over when a goal seemed certain. Though the muscular Djebbour was causing problems for the USA defence and proving difficult to knock off the ball, most of Algeria's goal threats were coming from distance. A Matmour strike from 25 yards out was pushed over by Howard just before the interval.
The USA should have gone in front after an hour, when a combination of a good run and cross from Altidore and a defensive slip left Clint Dempsey with a perfect shooting chance. He had all of the goal to aim at from a position near the penalty spot yet managed to a post.
Altidore headed straight at the goalkeeper from Dempsey's inviting cross before Algeria almost scored at the other end, Karim Ziani getting a clear sight of goal on a swift counterattack but dragging his shot wide.
A draw looked inevitable as the board went up for four minutes' stoppage time, but summoning strength for one last run Donovan released Altidore to break down the right. From his cross the Algerian goalkeeper made another last-ditch stop from Dempsey, only to find Donovan had carried on running and was available to drill in the rebound. Cue mayhem. Not just pitchside and in the stands but on the field, where Antar Yahia received a yellow and then red card in the closing seconds for arguing with the referee. "We need more stability and discipline, but I don't think we need hang our heads in shame," Algeria's coach, Rabah Saâdane, said. "We don't get to that many World Cups and you should not expect miracles. It is clear now that the loss in our opening game was the decisive result."
Unbelievably, the game that already had everything took a Hollywood turn afterwards, when Donovan broke down in tears on accepting his man of the match award. The goalscorer blamed a divorce last year and, perhaps more bizarrely, the disappointment of 2006 in Germany. "I've been through a lot in the last four years and I'm so glad it has culminated in this way," he blubbed. "It makes me believe in good in the world."
Yanks, eh? And what did Clinton think? "Every contest eventually becomes a headgame," the former president said. "I like people who don't quit though. We are not keen on quitters in my family."
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