Convinced? Klinsmann’s player moves in each group game keyed advance

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Either Jurgen Klinsmann just spent a week with a genie or most of America owes him an apology (Looking at you, Mike Wilbon, Eric Wynalda and others).

The United States lost to Germany 1-0 on Thursday, but did enough in previous matches to advance to the Round of 16.

Now there’s a chance you’re saying, “Wait, wait, hold on, wait. The U.S. barely beat Ghana, gave up a last-second equalizer to Portugal and came within a pouncing Cristiano Ronaldo of falling to Ghana on goal differential*. What exactly did he do that we should lavish the big German with such praise?”

*If you were actively watching Ghana/Portugal, you would know that the Black Stars were dominating possession and chances, and looked in the throes of finding the goal that would send the U.S. home before Ronaldo struck to make it 2-1.

Fortunately, we have your answers.

Game 1: The subs be with you.

Under the duress of injuries to Jozy Altidore and Matt Besler, Klinsmann has to choose his subs wisely and early; Only one will be 100 percent strategic, as the others are necessitated by said injuries.

Instead of turning to Omar Gonzalez, Klinsmann brings on untested and somewhat-maligned John Anthony Brooks to fill-in for Besler. Then, Klinsmann turns to Graham Zusi for Ale Bedoya in the 77th minute. The Sporting KC midfielder lashes in a corner kick towards Brooks and rest is history.

[ IN FOCUS: US 2, Ghana 1 ]

Game 2: How do you solve a problem like no Jozy?

Without his only “proven” striker in Jozy Altidore, Klinsmann turns away from Aron Johannsson. The Icelandic-Alabaman didn’t make much of an impact in his opportunity against Ghana, so the US coach moves Clint Dempsey up-top.

“Deuce” is dangerous from the get-go, eventually scoring the game-winner on a pelvic-thrust from in front of the goal. The play was begun by another suspect substitution, as Klinsmann gave a vote of confidence to speedy youngster DeAndre Yedlin. The Sounders man got the second-goal started, though Geoff Cameron lost his mark to allow Portugal to tie the match at the death.

[ IN FOCUS: US 2, Portugal 2 ]

Game 3: How to fill the holes in the back?

The usually-solid Cameron was arguably responsible for both Portugal goals, and Klinsmann takes decisive action in slotting in strong but inconsistent center back Omar Gonzalez. After a shaky start, the L.A. Galaxy center back uses his size and strength to thwart multiple German attacks.

In fact, the only goal Germany manages is a result of the United States midfielders failing to react (or be in position) after Tim Howard parried a dangerous shot back to the 18. That, and the fact that Thomas Mueller absolutely scorched a picture-perfect shot.

The 1-0 loss is enough to get the States through to the knockout round, where they will undoubtedly use more offensive tactics the next time they face a powerhouse.

[ IN FOCUS: Germany 1, US 0 ]

***

Agree? Disagree? Still sad about Donovan? Let’s talk it out.

Ronaldo explains his new chin hair at World Cup

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Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has taken to sporting a reasonable hairstyle atop his head, people are talking about the foliage on his face.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

Ronaldo, 33, drew speculation when he stroked his chin following a goal in his hat trick performance against Spain in the World Cup opener. Some said he was demonstrating defiance against Lionel Messi posing with a goat (Greatest Of All Time) in a recent photograph.

Ronaldo scored again on Wednesday, and there was seemingly little doubt his goatee was a wink to the speculators. But what did it mean, CR7? From ESPN:

“This goatee? It’s a joke I had with [Ricardo] Quaresma. “We were in the sauna [before Friday’s match against Spain] and I started to shave and I left the goatee. I said if I score tomorrow, I would leave it for the rest of the tournament. And it gave me luck.

“I scored in that game, I scored in this one, so it stays.”

Personally, I like to imagine Ronaldo starting to get as wild with his facial hair as he did his head hair.

Perhaps a beatnik style, or something like Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Get nuts, C-Ron.

Report: Southampton could sell Tadic to Ajax for $20m

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Could Southampton be selling one of its most creative forces?

Dusan Tadic, 29, is in the middle of a World Cup run with dark horse Serbia, but the Saints star is also being talked about as a purchase item for Ajax.

[ MORE: Serbia tops Costa Rica ]

The celebrated Eredivisie has traditionally been a selling club for the Premier League, but could be a $20 million buy for Ajax.

The report says director of players Marc Overmars and financial director Jeroen Slop have flown to Southampton to work out a deal.

Tadic starred for Dutch sides Groningen and Twente between 2010-14 before moving to St. Mary’s for a reported $12 million.

He’s scored 24 goals with 35 assists in 162 appearances for Saints, 21 and 30 of which came in the Premier League.

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

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Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.

Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:

“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”

The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 8 — Argentina on the edge; France aims for berth

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France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.

That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.

Below is Thursday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group C
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE