JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -
England finally played near its best Wednesday at the World Cup and the United States poked in an injury-time goal, enough to put both teams into the round of 16 with 1-0 victories.
Both the English and Americans came into their final Group C matches with two points from two draws - one against each other. They both needed wins to guarantee advancement, and they both got them.
Jermain Defoe scored for England against Slovenia in Port Elizabeth, and Landon Donovan did the job for the United States with an injury-time goal against Algeria in Pretoria.
"This team, this spirit, played together and tried together," England coach Fabio Capello said. "I am really happy because I found the team I know. We now go forward. We can play against all the teams because the mind is now free."
The 1-0 result could have still seen Slovenia through, but the late American win changed things dramatically.
Over and over, everything had seemed to go against the United States at this World Cup. A referee took away a win last week, and a linesman disallowed another goal Wednesday.
Now there was just 3 1/2 minutes left in their World Cup, just that much remaining until all the doubts about American soccer would rise again.
But then, in one of the most stunning turnarounds in World Cup history, Donovan scored on a lightning fast counterattack 45 seconds into four minutes of injury time. With the most amazing late-game moment in American soccer, the United States reached the World Cup's second round.
"This team embodies what the American spirit is about," Donovan said. "We had a goal disallowed the other night, We had another good goal disallowed tonight. But we just keep going. And I think that's what people admire so much about Americans. And I'm damn proud."
Former president Bill Clinton lingered in the locker-room for 45 minutes after the game to congratulate the players. When Donovan scored, raucous cheers erupted on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and even in White House auditoriums in Washington, D.C., according to emails sent to U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati.
The United States won its first World Cup match in eight years and finished atop its first-round group for the first time since the original World Cup in 1930. With a quick turnaround, the Americans play Ghana Saturday night for a spot in the quarter-finals.
England will play three-time champion Germany, which finished in first place in Group D after a 1-0 win over Ghana on Wednesday.
Ghana and Australia, which defeated Serbia 2-1 on Wednesday, tied for second in the group. However, because of a better goal differential, Ghana became the first African country to advance to the next round.
In Wednesday's game against Algeria, American Clint Dempsey appeared to score in the 21st minute off a rebound. But the goal was called offside, even though television replays appeared to show it to be fair.
Then, Dempsey's 12-yard shot off Jozy Altidore's cross clanked off the far post in the 57th minute, and when the rebound came back to Dempsey, he put the follow-up shot wide to the near side.
""You shake it out of your head and keep on fighting," Dempsey said.
That attitude was rewarded by Donovan's U.S. record 44th international goal, He joyously ran to the corner flag, sliding headfirst in a belly flop before his teammates ran down the touchline to mob him.
"A lot of kisses. A little uncomfortable," Donovan said, "but it's something I'll have imbedded in my mind forever."
When the game ended, Donovan kicked the final ball into the stands.
"Someone got a nice souvenir," he said.
He was in tears and even 30 minutes later his eyes watered and voice cracked as he talked about the goal. The field long empty, American fans remained in the stands, still cheering, waving the Stars and Stripes and blowing vuvuzelas.
The English and the Americans both finished with the same record (1-0-2), giving them five points each , but England finished second because the U.S. scored four goals to two for the English. Slovenia (1-1-1) was third with four points, missing advancing because of Donovan's heroics.
Algeria (0-2-1) was last with one point.
England probably would have probably preferred Ghana in the next round, but looks to be advancing with renewed confidence. Before Defoe's goal, the English players again looked nervous and lacked any fluidity. But after taking the lead, the 1966 world champions dominated and could have scored more.
"It's been difficult for the supporters because they weren't happy with the performances," Defoe said. "A lot of the top teams have struggled so it was important to keep the spirit, which we have done."