Americans, Algerians celebrate

TREVOR HUGGINS Associated Press Published:

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- As Luis Suarez prepared to leave the World Cup in disgrace, Americans and Algerians were celebrating their places in the knockout rounds on a dramatic final day of the group stage on Thursday.

While some form of suspension for Suarez was guaranteed after the Uruguay striker bit Italy's Giorgio Chiellini on the shoulder, few would have predicted one of the longest bans in the tournament's history -- nine international matches and four months from all football.

It was his third ban for biting after previous incidents in England and the Netherlands, and given the comments made by FIFA, it's hard to see the Uruguayan football federation making much headway with its appeal.

"Such behavior cannot be tolerated on any football pitch and in particular not at a FIFA World Cup, when the eyes of millions of people are on the stars on the field," Claudio Sulser, chairman of the FIFA disciplinary committee, said in a statement.

Several hundred Uruguayans, including President Jose Mujica, gathered at Montevideo's airport to wait for Suarez's return.

While he may no longer be in Brazil, his peers in Neymar of Brazil and Argentina's Lionel Messi are still very much in the tournament -- as are the United States and Algeria, which has finally reached the last 16 for the first time in its history.

The U.S. lost 1-0 to Germany on Thursday in its last match in Group G, but it still managed to qualify and line up a second-round game against Belgium on Tuesday in Salvador.

Ghana, which had a more realistic chance of beating the U.S. to second place behind the already-qualified German, missed its chance in a 2-1 defeat to Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal. Ronaldo scored the winner in a pyrrhic victory for what the world player of the year has accurately described as "probably just an average team."

He now joins England's Wayne Rooney and Italy's Mario Balotelli as the star also-rans in a tournament that has sprung plenty of surprises.

Germany will play Algeria in Porto Alegre on Monday, a match that comes with some emotional baggage.

At the 1982 World Cup, Germany denied Algeria a place in the second round by playing out an infamous match with Austria that finished 1-0 to the Germans. The result, achieved by just knocking the ball around after the goal had been scored, qualified the European neighbors and sent the Algerians home.

Thursday's 1-1 draw with Russia has not only helped Algeria turn the page on one of the tournament's darkest moments, it has also offered a chance to rip the page out completely with an unlikely revenge victory on Monday.

After a rest day on Friday, the action restarts on Saturday with two matches -- when host Brazil takes on Chile in Belo Horizonte and Colombia faces Uruguay in Rio. Neymar will be at the heart of the action in the Belo Horizonte, while Suarez will only be a spectator.

PORTUGAL 2, GHANA 1

BRASILIA, Brazil -- Cristiano Ronaldo finally made his mark at the World Cup -- but it came too late to spare Portugal an early exit from Brazil.

The world player of the year broke his scoring drought at the tournament with an 80th-minute winner against Ghana.

That result left the Portuguese level on four points with United States in Group G but with an inferior goal difference to the second-place Americans, who lost 1-0 to Germany in Recife. Ghana also was eliminated, finishing bottom of the group.

Ronaldo barely celebrated after slamming home his goal, giving Portugal its first win after a 4-0 loss to Germany and 2-2 draw with the U.S.

A 2-1 victory would have put Ghanaians through but Majeed Waris' headed chance that he planted wide of the post in the 60th was the only genuine opening they created before Ronaldo's clincher.

ALGERIA 1, RUSSIA 1

CURITIBA, Brazil -- Algeria qualified for the World Cup knockout stages for the first time, with Islam Slimani's heading in an equalizer in the 60th minute to give his team enough competition points to reach the second round.

Algeria placed second in Group H behind Belgium with four points, meaning it will meet Germany in the Round of 16.

Before Algeria's equalizer, Russia had chances to double its lead, notably in the 26th minute when Oleg Shatov weaved through the Algeria midfield but his right-foot shot drifted wide of the Algeria post.

Algeria came closest to qualifying for the second stage at the World Cup in 1982, but West Germany and Austria played out a result that suited both of those teams. The European teams, meeting a day after Algeria had won its last group game, knew that a 1-0 win for West Germany would put both through to the second round at Algeria's expense.

BELGIUM 1, SOUTH KOREA 0

SAO PAULO -- Reduced to 10 men for more than half the match, Belgium still edged South Korea to finish on top of Group H and eliminate the last Asian team from the World Cup.

With a late goal yet again, Belgium made the difference in the 78th minute when defender Jan Vertonghen followed up a shot from teenage striker Divock Origi and tapped in the rebound.

After three narrow victories and precious little beautiful play, Belgium will now play the United States in Salvador on Tuesday.

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