England now have to do it the hard way, but considering their performances so far at the tournament, a runners-up place in Group C - and a tough game against Germany - was entirely merited.
England were lacking desire, passion, hunger and any kind of penetrative attacking play in their opening two games, while the Americans have played with spirit throughout their group campaign and managed to score twice as many goals as England.
If Fabio Capello's side had played as well as they can - as all those fans who bought tickets to Rustenburg, rather than Bloemfontein, expected - they'd be playing Ghana in the next round and facing a far easier route through the tournament, on paper at least.
As it is, they've got a far tougher proposition in the form of their old rivals.
But, if a team are going to win the competition, they need to see off the big boys somewhere along the line, so why not start now?
We've heard about England being a world class side for some time now, especially after their qualifying campaign, yet they are still to win anything in the past 40-odd years.
Long unbeaten runs against smaller nations does not make a great side. Beating Germany, Argentina, Spain or Brazil at a major tournament does.
If England have genuine designs on becoming a top class side, they should be judged on their performances against the likes of Germany, not Slovenia or Algeria, nor Ukraine, Kazakhstan or Belarus.
Now they have a chance to do that.
The win over Slovenia has meant the comparisons between now and 1990 continue. Back then we won our final group game against Egypt 1-0 and we were able to take confidence from that into our second round game against Belgium.
Going into the knockout phase off the back of a win boosted our spirits and morale, but I wouldn't say we were "buzzzing", as Jermain Defoe has claimed the current England squad are.
We knew we had merely done what was expected of us after a poor start to the tournament. Capello's side have done the same, no more. They, as we were, are yet to beat a top side - that's when you really start to buzz.
Nevertheless, they at least now know what it's like to win a game in South Africa, and that can only help their mental preparations for the win-or-bust game with Germany.
Of course the history between these two sides will always be there, but it shouldn't play on the players' minds once they get out onto the pitch.
As a rule, Germany have the upper hand at major tournaments, where they have regularly suffocated England.
But this is a one-off game over 90 minutes (maybe a little longer) and everything that has happened previously should go out of the window. To ensure that, England have to be mentally strong, and the result of their last game will have helped prepare them.
But there is a great deal of work to be done.
Forget that Germany lost to Serbia. They were down to 10 men yet still managed to create more chances during the rest of that game than England did in their opening two matches.
England may well be unbeaten in this tournament, but I consider them lucky to be so. Germany have played consistently better football and been far more creative in their play.
I believe the absence of Michael Ballack has actually helped them. With the Chelsea player in their midfield, they are more static and don't play at the same tempo as we're seeing now.
The need to quell the tempo will be key for England, and I think to get the best out of the team in this game Capello needs to flood the midfield with Wayne Rooney up front on his own.
Manchester United got the best out of Rooney in that position last season and with Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard both more than capable of moving forward from midfield to contribute goals, England's attack should not be compromised with that formation.
- Fabio Capello