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As an example of punditry it could not be surpassed. It was up there with the greatest in history. Neil Armstrong-esque in its simplicity. What was most remarkable was that not a single word had been said. All a fuming, aghast Alexi Lalas could do was open and shut his mouth like a goldfish and try very hard indeed not to swear profusely and kick the TV set to pieces. A grinning Steve McManaman, sitting beside his ginger brethren, did not try to hide the Schadenfreude coursing through his Scouse veins.
The former US defender was on camera on ESPN just minutes after the agonising ending to Sunday's clash against Portugal and was expected to spout forth on his reaction to the USA having an easy passage into the last 16 snatched from them with just 15 seconds of the game remaining. Like the other 25 million who reportedly tuned in to the evening clash, Lalas was still trying to process what had just happened.
A defensive blunder had given Portugal an early head start in the group game. Instead of caving in the US team swiftly grew into the match, dominating their opponents rather than sitting back and holding on for dear life as in the opener against Ghana. The midfield was sturdy and the US repeatedly attacked with precision down the flank left exposed and unguarded by a fatigued Ronaldo.
At 2-1 up after strikes from Jermaine Jones and the inspirational Clint Dempsey, American fans stuffed into bars were celebrating the Germany game being a meaningless encounter, but for all the right reasons. But then Michael Bradley lost the ball in midfield and Cristiano Ronaldo did his thing. Cue misery.
After the Monday morning gloom depression had lifted, some more positive news filtered through. Nate Silver, an analyst who has the knack of getting all US election race predictions eerily correct, calculated that the US had a 76% chance of getting through to the final 16, despite taking on a Germany side still with business to attend to. That is not even taking into account the notion of the comfortable, mutually beneficial draw between the US and the home country of the side's manager. This possibility is something that 'Bild' have ruled out with Thursday's headline showing a beaten up US coach and the promise: "Klinsi, today you see stars."
This German refusal to take the easy option means that the US have even more battles on their hands in Thursday's clash. The first is to get over the curse of Manaus. All four teams that have played in the Amazonian city have lost their subsequent games due to the sapping humidity. However, the US have one extra supporter on board to get them through the game - Jack Bauer.
In his gruffest voice, Kiefer Sutherland has been called in to voice a series of morale-boosting promos. "Maybe we should get his autograph?" growled Bauer when ruminating over the threat of Ronaldo ahead of the Portugal clash. The vibe of the immensely brilliant slots is that the US team is not being driven on star power, or special talents but defiance. The more people doubt, the harder they play being the message.
That sense of proving everyone wrong is set for another big test against Germany to complete a trio of matches that was expected to see the US being booted about by bigger and better sides. But as Bauer promised before the game against Ghana: "It's called the Group of Death. That's because we are in it."
Tim Stannard - Follow him on Twitter</a>
Yes @ thefulditch, but Jack Bauer's an American, and the greatest American that ever lived at that.- davislurve