For those making a rare visit to the realm of soccer, or just starting to fall for the world’s game, this past week has been a lesson in its gut-wrenching highs and lows. There was Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal whipping a pass, time ticking down, the ball meeting the head of a teammate. Goal! In a instant, the United States lost its lead, and an early, unexpected ticket to the next round of the World Cup in Brazil.

Which set up Thursday, Ronaldo delivering something much more pleasing to the American side, a late goal, yes, against Ghana, securing that place for the United States among the final 16 teams, even as it lost 1-0 to Germany.

Deflator, and then restorer of dreams.

Few gave the American team much chance to survive the “Group of Death.” The thought was, a win, loss and tie would put them in position, difficult though it would be. And that is what the team achieved, or something European powers England, Italy and Spain did not.

The defense proved tough enough, the offense lively enough, and Tim Howard, the goalkeeper, saved many moments. The funny thing is, the team may be better off having failed to win the group, staying away from the high-performing Chile, Brazil, Colombia, France and Germany. Better the side of the bracket that begins with a game against Belgium on Tuesday.

Soccer gives, and it takes away.