U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said on Thursday he is ecstatic to see the U.S. team advance to a World Cup knockout stage for the second consecutive tournament and promised the team would continue to improve.
"Well, that we still can do better," Klinsmann said, when asked what message he would deliver to the team post-match. "We got through the group, but we have to do better in the round of 16, and we will do better."
U.S. INTO THE ROUND OF 16
- Doug McIntyre: Battered, bruised, through
- Jeff Carlisle: U.S. grades
- Chris Jones: U.S. ride their luck
- Klinsmann: "Now we really get started"
- Will the perception of U.S. soccer change?
- Tactics Board: Organized U.S. restrict Germany
- Social media: Reaction to U.S. progress
Germany beat the U.S. 1-0 on Thursday in soggy Recife on Thomas Muller's 55th-minute goal to win Group G, but the Americans held on to second place when Portugal defeated Ghana 2-1 in a game played simultaneously in Brasilia.
"Obviously it's a huge achievement by our team to come through that group and qualify for the knockout stage,'' Klinsmann said. "We take a couple of good things with us and whoever we face we're going to take it to them. Now we really get started. Once the group is done, another tournament actually starts because the knockout stage is a completely different ballgame. So we can't wait to get that started next week."
The U.S. will next play Belgium (July 1, 4 ET, ESPN), who won Group H after the U.S. match on Thursday.
Asked before the Belgians' match whether he would prefer to face Algeria or Belgium, Klinsmann measured his response.
"Belgium and Algeria are very, very different teams," he said. "We played two friendlies against Belgium, but Algeria has a completely different style. We can't wait to start that phase."
In those friendlies, Belgium beat the U.S. 4-2 in May 2013 in Cleveland, and 1-0 in September 2011 in Brussels.
U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard, who had five saves on Thursday, said that based on the team's performance so far, he has nothing but optimism.
''Proud of the group, we still got a lot left in us," he said. "I thought we played well throughout the group. It was a tough game and tough conditions. Hats off to Germany -- I think they have an opportunity to win the World Cup, that's how good I think they are.
"And we had a chance, a chance there at the end, but we go again," he said. "You know, we get to the round of 16, it shows how far we've come, that we're not happy just getting there, that we want to progress, and we still got a little bit left in us.''
Klinsmann singled out Everton stopper Howard as a difference-maker. Howard was a towering presence at the back for most of the game who was beaten only by a superb Muller long-range strike.
"Tim is one of our big shots," Klinsmann said. "He's our leader, he keeps everyone together and obviously we need him right now. In a World Cup if you want to go far you need one of the best goalkeepers in the world -- and we have one."
But Klinsmann said he believed his team could raise its game again.
"It's huge getting out of this group," Klinsmann said. "Everybody said 'You have no chance,' but we took our chance and now we move on and we really want to prove a point."