Camp Marmal, Afghanistan (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.”
Another fan 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 likely opponent will be Belgium on Tuesday.
“Every four years you get to see the game grow,” a fan named Dave 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,” he said.
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.
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 Edmuds.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 wanted a growing interest in soccer.
“We wanted to be open about it and allow them to watch the game, just so long as they 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 from Long Island, New York, 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.
Copyright CNN 2014