The United States was not perfect Thursday in a 1-0 defeat to Germany in its final Group G game.
It didn't matter.
Portugal defeated Ghana 2-1 in the other group game to ensure the Americans advanced to the knockout stage for the second consecutive time.
Depending on the results in Group H later Thursday, the United States probably is headed for a match Tuesday in Salvador against Belgium.
The development has ended a couple trends. Since the Americans qualified for the World Cup finals in 1990, they had advanced to the knockout stage only every time tournament.
Now they've done two in a row. Also, the United States survived Ghana, which had eliminated it two consecutive World Cups.
The Americans, surprisingly, survived the Group of Death despite looking like a skeleton of their previous selves. Perhaps the emotionally draining 2-2 draw Sunday in the Amazon heat left them sapped of energy. The Americans looked flat in against Germany in rainy Recife, Brazil.
But it wasn't a total whitewash. The United States withstood a withering German attack in the first half to keep it scoreless. That took guts and perseverance.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann was looking genius-like by replacing central defender Geoff Cameron with the L.A. Galaxy's Omar Gonzalez in the starting XI.
The Texan showed why he deserved the start by frustrating the German attackers with pinpoint tackles. If not for his play, it could have turned ugly early.
Eventually, the American fortress failed in the 55th minute when Tim Howard was forced into yet another big save off a corner kick. The rebounded ball unfortunately fell to the brilliant Thomas Muller, who curled a shot inside the far post.
However, the much-maligned backline redeemed itself against Germany. That fuels hopes as the Americans move on in the World Cup.
But big questions remain in the midfield where U.S. leader Michael Bradley had another spotty performance. The Americans need Bradley at his best to generate scoring chances. He gave the ball away too easily, as he did against Ghana in the Cup opener. Bradley appears to have lost some confidence, almost as if he is questioning himself on the pitch. It could have been the side effects of playing in Manaus four days earlier.
There will be debate over the coming days about what is bothering one of America's most experienced players.
Klinsmann again went with one striker in Clint Dempsey, who works better when he can link with another forward. Dempsey was shutout and had few chances until second-half stoppage time when the United States came to life and almost leveled the score.
The biggest take-away, though, is simple: The United States survived Group G when few gave it any chance.
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865 and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.