JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - England and Germany squeezed into the second round of the World Cup Wednesday together with the United States but Australia went out despite a victory that paradoxically saved Africa's chances.
Ghana, the continent's last real hope, lost 1-0 to Germany after a thundering 60th minute strike by Mesut Ozil, but finished second in Group D thanks to the Socceroos convincing 2-1 victory over Serbia.
England finally found some of their form to beat a feisty Slovenia, who saw their chance of qualification from Group C agonizingly stolen at the last moment by a U.S. goal by Landon Donovan in injury time against Algeria.
The last gasp U.S. victory sparked scenes of joy in Pretoria among American fans and gave them first place in the group over England.
"I'm just shocked and so proud of our guys... unbelievable," midfielder Donovan said. He broke down in tears in the post-match press conference and former President Bill Clinton went to the changing room to congratulate the players, telling them they had shown the American spirit.
The result put Algeria out -- another disappointment in Africa's poor showing at the continent's first World Cup.
Donovan's late goal was also a tragedy for Slovenia, the tournament's smallest nation with a population of just over two million, who would otherwise have gone through.
As fellow European power France flew home after a shameful first-round exit, England finally played with determination against a feisty Slovenia after two dismal draws from their opening matches. The players expressed relief and said their World Cup ambition had been revived.
ENGLAND SMILE AT LAST
Striker Jermain Defoe, brought in as part of a team shakeup by manager Fabio Capello, connected with a James Milner cross in the 23rd minute to notch a goal and give some relief to the hordes of English supporters in Port Elizabeth.
Capello, whose habitual frown finally turned to a smile, said the result should lift the pressure on his players.
"The mind now is free, without fear," he said.
The first World Cup in Africa has so far been a struggle for Europe with former champions France heading home after a demoralizing player revolt, over the expulsion of striker Nicolas Anelka, that has shocked their nation.
Hosts South Africa beat France Tuesday night to leave them bottom of their group with just one point.
"In 11 days of competition, Raymond Domenech's gang has succeeded in becoming the laughing stock of the entire world, a mix of arrogance, incompetence, a lack of talent and professionalism," said France Soir newspaper.
President Nicolas Sarkozy called for a total shake-up of French soccer after a special government meeting Wednesday and said no player should receive bonuses. He hinted that there should be resignations among French soccer officials.
South Africa were the first hosts to be eliminated in the first round but at least held their heads high, garnering four points, losing out only on goal difference, and ending with their best ever international victory.
Bafana Bafana's elimination has quietened the vuvuzela trumpets a little but the nation remains proud of the achievements of its underdog team and even more of its success in organizing a successful tournament, despite years of gloomy predictions from critics that it would be a disaster.
Argentina have led Latin American dominance of the World Cup so far, Diego Maradona's team brimming with confidence after a perfect first round record of three wins.
The artistry of Argentina, Brazil and even smaller Latin American teams too has been in sharp contrast to the pedestrian European performances.
Chile's players, who have won two games out of two, say a ripped and muddy flag rescued from the debris of February's massive earthquake has helped inspire them.
They have hung it on a flagpole by their training pitch.
"We're trying to bring a little happiness to all those people who suffered," said center back Waldo Ponce.