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Jun 26, 2014

Firsts for CONCACAF, 2 other regions

The ESPN expert panel look back at the last seven World Cups and discuss how far the United States has come.

With a 1-0 defeat to Germany and a 2-1 Portugal win over Ghana, the United States advanced to consecutive World Cup knockout rounds for the first time in its history. The Americans will play Belgium, the winner of Group H, on Tuesday in Salvador (coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN).

ESPN's Soccer Power Index gives the Americans a 41 percent chance of beating Belgium, the second-best odds of any underdog in the next round.

With all of the knockout round spots filled, we will see the most CONCACAF (three) and the most African teams (two) ever in the round of 16. Six European teams reached the knockout stage, matching 2010 for the fewest ever.

Here are five notes on the action from the final day of group stage play.

• Germany wins its group for the seventh straight World Cup with the victory in soggy Recife, advancing from its group for the 16th straight time. Thomas Muller's 55th minute game winner was his ninth in nine World Cup appearances for Germany. The 24-year-old is the fourth-youngest player to score nine World Cup goals and the youngest since Gerd Muller in 1970.

• The United States' winless streak against previous World Cup champions is extended to seven (0-5-2), with four of the losses being by one goal, as it was Thursday. The Americans were on the defensive throughout the game due to Germany's potent attack. The U.S. finished with just 37 percent of the possession on 496 total touches to Germany's 871. Only 171 of the U.S. team's touches were in its attacking half of the field (34 percent), compared to 505 in that area for Germany (58 percent).

• Both Portugal and Ghana are eliminated with the results on the final day of Group G play. Portugal finishes behind the U.S. because of its minus-3 goal differential after having advanced from its group in each of the previous two World Cups. Cristiano Ronaldo's 80th-minute game-winning goal was not enough to put his team through, but did make him the first Portuguese player to score at three different World Cup tournaments. It was his third World Cup goal on 70 total shots over his 13 games since 2006. Ghana's loss means that the Black Stars will also not reach their third consecutive knockout round. Asamoah Gyan scored his sixth World Cup goal in the game, passing Cameroon's Roger Milla for the most by an African player.

• Belgium had already clinched a spot in the round of 16 for the first time since 2002 before its 1-0 win over South Korea on Thursday. Jan Vertonghen's game winner was the first by a Belgian starter at this tournament, and was the first goal for a team that was playing a man down. Belgium led for just 25 minutes in the group stage, spending 200 minutes tied and 45 minutes trailing. South Korea's loss means that the Asian Football Confederation finishes the tournament 0-9-3, the first confederation with multiple teams at a single World Cup to all go winless.

• Algeria finishes as runner-up in Group H and advances to the knockout round for the first time ever in its fourth World Cup appearance. With Algeria joining Nigeria in the round of 16, this year's tournament is the first in which two African teams advance to the knockout round. Russia is eliminated with the 1-1 draw and hasn't advanced from its World Cup group since 1986, when it was playing as the Soviet Union.

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