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US qualify for World Cup last 16 despite defeat to Germany

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The U.S. national team qualified for the last 16 of the 2014 World Cup despite losing 1-0 to Germany in Recife on Thursday.

I repeat. The USA made it out of the dreaded “Group of Death.”

Jurgen Klinsmann’s men completed a remarkable group stage campaign, as they finished runners up in Group G to Germany and qualified for the knockout rounds for the fourth-time in their history. The game-winning moment arrived in the 55th minute as Thomas Muller finished off a loose ball clinically but all eyes were on the other game in Group G, where Portugal beat Ghana 2-1 but that meant the U.S. had pulled off a huge shock to make the knockout round.

The USA will now play Belgium on Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET in Salvador, as Klinmann’s men produced one of the best group stage displays in their World Cup history.

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It was a nerve jangling game in a rain-soaked Recife. Germany got on the front foot early on and a cross from the right wing found Muller in the box but the Bayern Munich star acrobatically missed the ball, then Podolski fired well over on the rebound.

Jerome Boateng was getting plenty of joy down the right-flank, as the USA sat back and tried to soak up early pressure from the German attack. Then on the left flank Mesut Ozil played in Podolski who flashed a cross into the six-yard box but Tim Howard collected the ball as Muller slid in to try and convert. Another dangerous ball into the box saw Benedikt Howedes and Per Mertesacker get in each other’s way and the ball was eventually cleared by the U.S. defense.

The USA were under intense pressure early on but managed to weather the storm in rainy Recife.

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It was an intense battle in the rain in Recife.

As the first half wore on some timely clearances from Omar Gonzalez kept things level and brief forays forward resulted in a confidence boost for the U.S. side. In the 22nd minute Graham Zusi was found out wide by Michael Bradley and the Sporting KC winger cut inside superbly but curled his effort just over the bar.

After a frantic start to the game the pace dropped slightly but as half time approached Germany began to press again, with Ozil jinxing into the box and getting a shot in on goal that Howard saved down low. However with the scored locked at 0-0, both teams returned to their locker rooms knowing they were 45 minutes away from reaching the last 16.

Moments into the second half U.S. fans were fearing the worst as the ball broke to Boateng on the right and his cross was arcing towards Ozil but out of nowhere Gonzalez (yet again) arrived to put him off and quell the danger.

In the 51st minute half time substitute Klose went close as the prolific forward peeled off to the back post but he couldn’t get a good connection on his header. A wake up call for the USA.

Disaster then struck for the U.S. as a short corner from Ozil found Mertesacker who forced Howard to make a superb stop, however the loose ball found Muller 20-yards out who powerfully side-footed the ball home. The German machine was clicking into place.

After the opener, the U.S. looked shaky as Germany sprayed the ball around and probed for a second. With Ghana equalizing vs. Portugal, the USA’s chances of advancing now hung on a thread. With the second half closing out, the “Manaus effect” began to take hold on the U.S. as there were plenty of tired legs for the Stars and Stripe and a tense second half played out.

Late on Germany continued to push as Gotze almost got in from close range but Besler made a heroic clearance to keep the score at 1-0. The U.S. almost scored late on as Bedoya was teed up but a superb block from Lahm stopped him, then Dempsey headed over the bar from close range.

Despite not getting the result they would needed before the g ame, Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal beat Ghana to send the USA through to the last 16.

LINEUPS

USA: Howard, Gonzalez, Bradley, Besler, Beasley, Dempsey, Jones, Davis (Bedoya, 59′), Beckerman, Zusi (Yedlin, 83′), Johnson

Germany: Neuer, Howedes, Hummels, Schweinsteiger (Gotze, 75′), Ozil (Schurrle, 89′), Podolski (Klose, 45′), Muller, Lahm, Mertesacker, Kroos, Boateng

Goal: Muller (55′)

Premier League Preview: Sunderland vs. Manchester United

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  • United 6 points outside the top four
  • Sunderland winless in four
  • MUFC has one loss in 27 vs. SAFC (W20, D6, L1)

Manchester United’s uphill battle for a top-four finish continues on Saturday when the Red Devils travel to the Stadium of Light to face Sunderland (Watch live, 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

United won this fixture in September 3-0 behind goals from Memphis, Wayne Rooney, and Juan Mata.

[ WATCH LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]

Sunderland sit 19th on the table four points from safety as the time has come for Sam Allardyce‘s side to start getting results. Without a win in their last four matches, the Black Cats must turn things around if they want to stay up in the Premier League. Jermain Defoe scored last time out in a draw at Liverpool, and he’ll once again be tasked with finding the back of the net if Sunderland are to win.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League Picks for Week 26 ]

For Manchester United, the pressure is still on Louis Van Gaal as rumors and reports circle linking Jose Mourinho to the job. Fifth on the table and six points behind Manchester City, a top-four finish is slipping away from United if they don’t rattle off a few wins. A late goal at Chelsea last weekend cost the Red Devils all three points, but they’ll look at this matchup against Sunderland as a good opportunity to get a positive result.

What they’re saying

Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce: “Providing chances for Jermain Defoe is critical for us. But our first major problem is that we haven’t kept a clean sheet in nine matches. We need to start putting a zero against us in games and if we start doing that we’ll win more matches. If we win more matches, we’ll get out of trouble.”

United manager Louis van Gaal: “We had lost four matches in a row in December and you see us now. You can only say that we are mentally very strong and that we can cope with the pressure. That is not enough as we have to improve our results and consistency to win a lot of matches in a row. We have to minimize the gap to our competitors.”

Prediction

Sunderland need all the points they can get to try and stay up, but United always seem to cause the Black Cats problems. Jermain Defoe is kept off the board as Louis van Gaal takes the win. Sunderland 0-2 Manchester United.

Costa breaks nose, will be fit to play for “Zorro team” vs. Newcastle

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 07:  Diego Costa of Chelsea reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on February 7, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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Chelsea striker Diego Costa broke his nose in training after a clash of heads, but should be fit to play in Saturday’s match against Newcastle (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

Costa has six goals in his past seven Premier League games as Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 11 in all competitions.

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Manager Guus Hiddink spoke about the injury in his press conference on Friday, saying Costa collided with an Academy player in training. Hiddink said he believes Costa will be ready to play this weekend for his “Zorro team” as Costa joins Gary Cahill, Nemanja Matic, and Cesar Azpilicueta as Chelsea players to wear a mask this season.

It was not a tough duel but he put his nose on the back of the head of one of the youngsters from the Academy that we like to participate in our training games. He was very unlucky.

They are putting a mask on Diego as well, we are the team with a lot of masks, a Zorro team, and he will come back do some light training this afternoon as he must experience how he is dealing with the form and the fitting of the mask.

Costa scored a stoppage-time equalizer against Manchester United last weekend as Chelsea continue to get results under Guus Hiddink. The Blues are up to 13th on the table, just three points outside the top half.

[ RELATED: Frank Lampard urges Chelsea to sign John Terry ]

Chelsea will look to extend their unbeaten run to 12 matches on Saturday against a Newcastle side that is just one point above the drop and in need of a result.

Messi named La Liga Player of the Month for first time in career

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 06:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Copa del Rey Round of 16 first leg match between FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol at Camp Nou on January 6, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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Lionel Messi has won every individual award imaginable, but now he can add another trophy to his shelf.

For the first time in his career, Messi was named La Liga’s Player of the Month for January.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings, Vol. VIII ]

It’s hard to believe, but somehow the Barcelona superstar had never won this honor before. Despite winning a record five Ballon D’or trophies as the best player in the world, this trophy had eluded Messi since its inception in 2013.

Messi scored six goals in six January matches as Barcelona sit atop the La Liga table, currently holding a three-point lead over Atletico Madrid.

Despite their dominance in La Liga, this is only the second time a Barcelona player has won this monthly award, as Neymar took home the honor in November of 2015.

USWNT-Mexico preview: Energized Yanks look to keep rolling toward Rio

FRISCO, TX - FEBRUARY 10:  Team USA poses for a photo before play against Costa Rica during 2016 CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying at Toyota Stadium on February 10, 2016 in Frisco, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The United States women’s national team looks to keep rolling through CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying with a match with Mexico on Saturday.

Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, is again the scene after the Yanks battered Costa Rica 5-0 on Wednesday.

[ MUST WATCH: Christen Press’ dazzling first touch, spin, goal ]

A win over Mexico would move the USWNT into the all-important semifinal, where a win would gain them entry into this Summer’s Olympic Games.

Mexico staged a blowout of its own on Wednesday, cruising past Puerto Rico 6-0 thanks in large part to a hat trick from Maribel Dominguez.

[ VIDEO: Alex Morgan caps off a 12-second, six-pass goal ]

Mexico has only beaten the USWNT twice in history, and only the 2010 Gold Cup semifinal is considered official.

In recent history, the USWNT beat up Mexico 5-1 last year, and thrice in 2014 by a combined score of 15-0. Expect very little to change with an energized, impressive U.S. side on Saturday.

[ SATURDAY: Watch USWNT vs Mexico live online on NBC Sports Live Extra ]