When the game ended, Donovan kicked the final ball into the stands.
“Someone got a nice souvenir,” he said.
He was in tears and even 30 minutes later his eyes watered and voice cracked as he talked about the goal. The field long empty, American fans remained in the stands, still cheering, waving the Stars and Stripes and blowing vuvuzelas.
As a 20-year-old in 2002, Donovan scored two goals and became a star. But expectations became crushing in 2006, went he went scoreless and the U.S. was eliminated in the first round. With his fourth World Cup goal, Donovan tied Bert Patenaude (1930) as the American leader.
“I’ve been through a lot in the last four years,” Donovan said with tears in his eyes. “And I’m so glad it culminated this way. It makes me believe in good in the world. When you try to do things the right way, that’s good to see them get rewarded.”
The United States finished a World Cup game with a shutout for just the fifth time in 28 matches (7-16-5) and topped Group C with 5 points.
England (1-0-2), which beat Slovenia 1-0 moments earlier, also had five points but finished second because the U.S. scored four goals to two for the English. Slovenia (1-1-1) was third with four points, missing advancing because of Donovan’s heroics. Algeria (0-2-1) was last with one point.
The Desert Foxes were making their third World Cup appearance following first-round elimination in 1982 and 1986. Algeria was the fourth African team to exit the first World Cup on African soil, following Cameroon, Nigeria and host South Africa.
“I think that Africa is on the right road,” coach Rabah Saadane said. “What we need in our national teams and squads is stability and a lot of discipline, and I think in a few years time, Africa will have among the best teams in the world.”
Dempsey needed four stitches to close a cut on his lip.
It was yet another late goal for the United States, which came from behind to tie England 1-1 in its opener, then rallied from a two-goal halftime deficit against Slovenia and would have won had Maurice Edu’s 85th-minute goal been allowed. In six of the final 10 qualifiers, the Americans gave up the first goals — but they bounced back to win three of those games and tie two others.
“That was a really special feeling,” U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. “These guys put a lot into it, they never quit.
“We’re proud. We finished first in our group. Five points, didn’t lose a match. So we’re ready.”
Howard bounced up and down in elation after the game. Feilhaber took a water bottle and sprayed his teammates, and it felt as good as champagne.
“We’re not done yet,” Donovan said. “We believe, man. We’re alive, baby.”
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