USA's defiant spirit pays off again

PRETORIA - The United States threw everything they could think of at Algeria's defence and got nothing in 90 minutes - and then, from somewhere, they found the strength for one last surge and came up heroic victors.

Landon Donovan's injury time goal sparked scenes of rare and raw emotion in the stands at the Loftus Versfeld and on the field as the U.S beat Algeria 1-0 and qualified for the last 16 as winners of Group C.

What the Americans lack in creativity and guile they certainly more than compensate for in work-rate, effort, supreme fitness and a very evident refusal to give up.

The limitations of Bob Bradley's team had been well evident throughout a tense and gruelling encounter, in which a determined Algeria knew that a win could send them into the last 16.

Missed chances, misplaced passes and a lack of composure and finesse, meant the U.S employed something of a battering ram approach to opening up an Algerian defence which stood firm.

But for the third game in a row, the refusal of the U.S to give up, their grit and graft came through to give them a result that, while on paper should have been expected, will be remembered for many years as a triumph.

Against England in the opening game, the Americans were a goal down inside four minutes but scrapped their way back for a 1-1 draw.

Then against Slovenia they trailed 2-0 at the break but came out and roared their way to a 2-2 draw.

DISPUTED DECISION

That game ended with a controversial disallowed effort which, had it stood, would have given the U.S victory and there was another dispute in the third game when Clint Dempsey had the ball in the net but the linesman's flag was raised.

Some teams might have lost focus after two major refereeing decisions went against them and others would have drifted into self-pity and despondency after Jozy Altidore managed to put the ball over the bar from two metres out with the goal at his mercy.

Many players would have been shaking their heads in disbelief when in the seconds half Dempsey hit the post and then scuffed the rebound wide.

But Bradley's boys rolled up their sleeves, chased down the ball and then tried and tried again.

Donovan, who had been ineffectual for large parts of the game, could have been forgiven for giving up slogging up and down the right flank but in stoppage time he found the drive to start one last counter-attack and the energy to pounce on the loose ball and slot in the winner.

"The only thing you can control is if you keep going," said an emotional Donovan after the game.

But the truth is that keeping going is only really possible if you believe and if a team is convinced that no matter how much things may seem to be going against them they can find a way to win.

The U.S lost their opening two games at the Confederations Cup a year ago and recovered to reach the final, beating European champions Spain on the way.

In World Cup qualification, the Americans found themselves behind in six out of their ten games but managed to get results and finish top of the CONCACAF group.

Those experiences have forged a self-belief in the U.S team that has shown itself in every game at this World Cup.

For a while it looked as though, 'try, try and try again' wouldn't be enough to get past Algeria and into the second round.

But it was enough and there is not a team in this tournament now who will be hoping to face the U.S in knockout stage.

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