Losing never felt so good.
At gatherings across the country — and as far away as Afghanistan — star-spangled Americans jumped, hugged and hollered as the United States advanced to the knockout stage of the World Cup.
This despite a tense 1-0 loss to powerhouse Germany. It didn’t matter: Because Portugal beat Ghana 2-1 in the other game, the Stars and Stripes survived out of the group stage.
And the party was on.
“Even when we lose, we still win!” a group of fans shouted over and over at Grant Park in Chicago, where officials said about 20,000 people gathered for a match viewing party. The signature chant of this U.S. run broke out there not long after the final whistle sounded in Brazil: “I believe that we will win! I believe that we will win!”
Zach Hatcher, who works in trucking, used a vacation day.
“If I would have called in sick, they would have known why,” he said.
He said he was happy with the result: “They’ve gone toe to toe with three teams that were all expected to be really competitive. It’s the Group of Death. Some people were talking about zero points, 0-3. We have four points.”
And a berth in the next round, where the U.S. will probably face Belgium.
But first, time to savor the win — well, the loss.
Fans celebrated in bars and at giant gatherings in public parks. They celebrated in living rooms where millions were expected to tune in. And, yes, they celebrated in offices, where bosses looked the other way or outright encouraged them to watch.
A mob of thousands screamed at the Kansas City Power & Light District in a scene of red, white and blue jubilation. In Dallas, a more familiar call rang out: “U-S-A! U-S-A!”
And this scene, from the Long Island City neighborhood of New York, was replicated coast to coast:
In Washington, D.C., the German Embassy hosted a party at Dupont Circle Park, where fans of both sides gathered to watch the game — but the rivalry stayed on the pitch.
Christian Propst, who was there cheering for Germany, said he was happy the United States had advanced to the next stage.
"We are happy that both teams are in the last 16. We're just happy about this," he said.
Fans seemed to agree that the best thing about a World Cup game is that it brings people together.
"Huge crowd. Can you imagine this 10 years ago? Never would have happened," said Paul Denu. "Soccer has grown so much in our country."
Timothy Edington said he mostly appreciated the camaraderie among fans.
"After the game, we all love football. And that's the thing: It was a great game. We lost, but we played hard," he said.
Twitter was bombarded with happy hashtags. Minutes after the game ended, #TeamUSA and #USMNT — the men’s national team — were trending.
Among those watching was the country’s fan-in-chief, who took in the game aboard Air Force One on a trip to Minnesota.
In Minneapolis, President Obama said the U.S. team had defied the odds.
"I want everyone on the team to know all of us back home are really proud of you," Obama said.
Alex Moe, Samira Puskar, Vaughn Hillyard and Becky Bratu of NBC News contributed to this story.
First published June 26 2014, 12:32 PM