NATAL, Brazil - It began with the magical. It ended with the miraculous.
John Brooks, a 21-year-old German-American making his competitive debut for the United States, who was on the field only because a starting fullback was hurt, powered a fierce header into the net in the 86th minute Monday to give the United States a 2-1 victory over Ghana in its first match of the World Cup.
Afterward, Brooks said that he had dreamed nearly the exact situation two nights ago, the only difference being that in his imagination, he scored in the 80th minute.
He did not seem particularly bothered by reality’s six-minute delay.
“It was my first dream,” he said softly, “hopefully not my last.”
Brooks’s header was the dramatic coda to an evening that was a jackhammer of emotions.
It opened with exuberance from the Americans after Clint Dempsey scored inside 30 seconds. That was followed by about 80 minutes of nervy, anxious nail-biting as two key players were lost to injury and Ghana pounded at the United States goal.
Then came a few moments of disappointment after Ghana tied the game. And finally, there was Brooks, rising to meet Graham Zusi’s corner kick and covering the United States with the warm glow of an upset victory.
The Americans still have a considerable road to navigate to reach the knockout rounds with group games yet to play against Portugal on Sunday and Germany on June 26.
Any hope of advancement, though, was predicated on a positive result here. And the United States got one.
At the final whistle, Coach Jürgen Klinsmann, who had not hesitated to liken this game to a final in terms of importance, ran onto the field, a smile wide across his face.