[BRAZIL 2014]So many U.S. heroes. So many players to single out on an epic night in Natal. And we also had the first hat trick of the World Cup by German Thomas Mueller, who upped his all-time goal production to more than a goal a game.
JOHN BROOKS. Everyone will learn the story of the 21-year-old John Brooks over the next few days, but all we have to go on for now is his goal in the 86th minute that won the game for the USA. What we'll also remember is his celebration as he was so overcome with emotion after his winning goal he collapsed to the ground and couldn't get up even after his teammates headed back to their positions.
THREE U.S. STARS.So many players contributed to the USA's 2-1 win over Ghana, who do we signal out? We'll go with the hockey approach and use three stars and only go with those who finished the game:
1. Jermaine Jones. Best game of his U.S. career from beginning (assist on first goal) to end (ran out the clock).
2. Kyle Beckerman. So many clean passes out of danger, key tackle after Ghana scored.
3. Clint Dempsey.On any other night, the captain would have exited but soldiered on with broken nose.
U.S. FANS.The Natal press had predicted there would be 20,000 U.S. fans in the crowd Monday night at the Arena das Dunas. That actual number was probably far short of that, but estimates still put the American support at at least a third of the announced crowd of 39,760. The U.S. presence was never felt so much as when the crowd went silent when Jozy Altidore was hurt in the first half.
THOMAS MUELLER.So Germany has no out-of-out striker to play up front besides Miroslav Klose. No problem. Mueller's three goals in Germany's 4-0 over Portugal give him eight in seven World Cup games. Only three players have scored more World Cup goals in as few games than Mueller: France's Just Fontaine (13 goals in six games), Hungary's Sandor Kocsis (11 goals in five games) and Portugal's Eusebio(nine goals in six games).
GOALS GALORE.The four goals at the Germany-Portugal and the three in Natal brought the tournament total of 44 in 14 goals, keeping the average above the three goals-per-game mark: 3.14. The last time the World Cup averaged more than three goals a game was in 1958.
JOHN BOYE. The 27-year-old Ghanaian defender, who will leave French club this summer, was beaten on both U.S. goals, beaten inside out by Dempsey at the start of the game and by Brooks on the corner kick. But Dempsey will remember Boye more for the wild kick that he thought broke him nose.
PORTUGAL. So the two Iberian representatives have now both played, and they've both suffered four-goal defeats: Spain 5-1 to the Netherlands and Portugal 4-0 to Germany. At least, the Spaniards scored. That's more than you could have said about Portugal. No two ways about it, Cristiano Ronaldo and Co., didn't show up.
PEPE.Diego Costa, Spain's Brazilian-born forward, was lucky to escape a red card for his head butt in the Netherlands game. Pepe, Portugal's Brazilian-born defender, wasn't so lucky. He cracked midway through the first half, head-butting Mueller. Yes, it was only a tap of his head, but he crossed the line from which he could not step back.
IRAN-NIGERIA.Monday's Group E match produced the tournament's first tie: 0-0. It's the only game of the tournament since the second game, Mexico's 1-0 win over Cameroon, that didn't produce three or more goals.