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US Dodges Bullet to Advance at World Cup - 2002-06-14


The U.S. Soccer team has reached the second round of the World Cup despite losing its final Group D match to Poland, 3-1.

Needing only a tie to be assured of reaching the second round, the United States found itself behind Poland 2-0 in the first five minutes. In addition, the Americans had a goal taken back for what looked like a questionable foul call.

Poland made it 3-0 midway through the second half and later it could have been 4-0 but U.S. goalie Brad Friedel stopped a penalty kick. Landon Donovan scored the lone U.S. goal in the 83rd minute.

But the 3-1 loss did not cost the United States because South Korea knocked off Portugal, 1-0. That gave the Koreans first place in Group D with seven points, the USA had four and Portugal and Poland each finished with three. So the USA advances as the second place team from the group.

Donovan, whose fourth-minute header into the net was denied by the Chinese referee for bumping a Polish defender, was asked if the Americans kept track of what was happening in the Korea-Portugal game, knowing it would have an impact on how the teams would finish.

"To be honest, we weren't worried about it, even after going down (2-0), we felt like we were going to get back into the game," he said. "And we had some decent chances at 2-0 to make it 2-1. And you don't want to wait for a result from the other game. But at some point it hit us that, I think Korea won, you know, and that was great. "

U.S. goalie Brad Friedel said ,while the Americans were not happy losing to Poland, they are excited to be moving on to the second round.

"Most of the time if you get four points in your group you go through. There are a couple groups where everything is a lot closer, but four points generally does get you through," he said. " And we got them in the first two games [with a 3-2 win over Portugal and a 1-1 against south Korea], which I think most people would have thought if we were to get four points we would have gotten them in the second two games."

So by finishing second in its group, even with the 3-1 loss to Poland, the U.S. soccer team moves on to the second round to play arch-rival Mexico. World Cup co-host South Korea will face Italy. From here on out, it's single elimination.

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