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Goal met: U.S. fans have reason to celebrate despite World Cup loss

By Ray Sanchez, CNN
updated 6:43 PM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "People are getting behind U.S. soccer," fan says
  • Throughout the U.S., World Cup fever takes hold
  • Thursday, June 26, 2014, becomes a national holiday of sorts

(CNN) -- Moments after Germany defeated the United States 1-0 Thursday at the World Cup, the globe's biggest sporting spectacle, frenzied U.S. fans danced and cheered in the humid air under New York's Manhattan Bridge overpass in Brooklyn. One more jubilant celebration -- sans a victory.

Even in defeat, Team USA earned a spot in the last 16 of the World Cup after limping out from one of the tournament's toughest groups. They lost their final Group G game but still qualified, despite Portugal defeating Ghana 2-1.

"This is bigger than a moment," said a frantic fan in Brooklyn who was among the thousands who gathered at various locations around the nation to watch the big match. "It's a movement. People are getting behind U.S. soccer."

Sales manager Dave Bogart said his heart was beating "a mile a minute" after Team USA's improbable advance from the feared "Group of Death."

Thomas Muller's second-half strike condemned the U.S. to defeat following a rain-soaked match in Recife, Brazil. But star Cristiano Ronaldo's late strike for Portugal inflicted defeat on Ghana and ensured the Americans qualified in second place on goal difference.

The American squad will now travel to Salvador, where its opponent will be Belgium on Tuesday.

"Every four years you get to see the game grow," Bogart told CNN under the Manhattan Bridge.

World Cup fever, American-style, lives -- at least until Tuesday. From now on, any loss for a team means the end of its World Cup hopes.

Throughout the country -- from outdoor viewing events in the nation's capital, New York and Chicago, to office lunch parties and crowded sports bars -- Thursday, June 26, 2014, was a national holiday of sorts.

Meetings were canceled. Students played hooky. Doctors' letters were forged. Some bosses simply gave up, ordered pizzas and put on the game.

That fever was in full view at breakfast time when an unnamed World Cup fan from suburban New York gulped down a cold beer at Jack Demsey's Pub in Midtown Manhattan. At an hour when New Yorkers are packing onto subway trains for their morning commute, the pub was already standing-room only.

"I actually got out of work with a concussion," said the superfan, who declined to give his name for obvious reasons.

For many early risers, the breakfast of champions included pints of stout, ale and cider, fireball shot specials and spicy chicken wings.

For 90-some minutes starting at noon Thursday, most of America seemed to stop.

Christian Raja reacts while he and other people in New York watch the World Cup match between the United States and Belgium on Tuesday, July 1. Belgium won 2-1 to knock the United States out of the soccer tournament in Brazil. Christian Raja reacts while he and other people in New York watch the World Cup match between the United States and Belgium on Tuesday, July 1. Belgium won 2-1 to knock the United States out of the soccer tournament in Brazil.
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Algerian squad members celebrate after tying Russia 1-1 during a World Cup match at the Baixada Arena in Curitiba, Brazil, on June 26. Algerian squad members celebrate after tying Russia 1-1 during a World Cup match at the Baixada Arena in Curitiba, Brazil, on June 26.
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A year of method acting helped the superfan with his concussion charade, as did a "real doctor's note from a real doctor," he said.

"I had to be off for two weeks, and I couldn't think or do anything," he told CNN. "I put that (method acting) to use as a diehard soccer fan."

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, the man who transformed Germany into a powerhouse team, on social media gave America's workforce permission to take a day off. His note said, in part, that the absence is for a "good cause" and that Team USA needs the "full support of the nation" in order to advance to the next round.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted back: "NYS stands strongly behind you. I'm approving an extra hour for lunch today."

On Sunday, 20,000 people showed up for the World Cup watch party at Chicago's Grant Park for the USA-Portugal match, CNN affiliate WBBM reported. But Thursday's crowd, which was expected to be bigger than Sunday's, turned out to be about 5,000.

In California, at the headquarters of Edmunds.com, workers pecked away on their laptops while watching the game.

The average age of workers at the Santa Monica headquarters of the car-buying website is 35. Edmunds CEO said he recognized a growing interest in soccer.

"We wanted to be open about it and allow them to watch the game, just so long as they (employees) get results," CEO Avi Steinlauf said. "We'd rather have it this way, watching in a conference room, than trying to check the score on their phones or computers."

The final score didn't seem to matter much Thursday. The team advanced.

As the superfan at Jack Demsey's Pub put it, his real affliction was not a concussion.

"The only thing I had was soccer fever, and the only prescription is more soccer," he said. "When we win, it is the greatest feeling in the world. It's one of the rare sports that really shows the patriotism that is America."

For many on Thursday, even defeat felt great.

U.S.-Germany match goes on despite downpour

CNN's Richard Roth, James Masters, Chris Welch, Brian Vitagliano, Elizabeth Landers, Paul Vercammen and Marisa Marcellino contributed to this report.

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