JEONJU, South Korea -- The players in red, white and blue ran around the field in disbelief, celebrating a stunning World Cup victory that helped bury a brutal past.
They realized a new world order had emerged at this year's tournament, one where U.S. soccer is a force, not a farce.
The Americans continued their improbable run on the sport's greatest stage with a 2-0 victory over Mexico on Monday. That earned them a spot against Germany in the quarterfinals, the best U.S. performance since the first World Cup in 1930.
"When I got to the locker room, I said, 'This is really weird,'" said Landon Donovan, who scored a second-half goal that sealed the victory. "It's like it's not happening. It's like a dream."
The Americans took their place alongside traditional greats Brazil, England and Germany, and perhaps erased bad memories of the 1998 World Cup in France, when the United States finished last in the 32-nation field.
"There is no longer an established world in soccer," coach Bruce Arena said. "It is truly a global game now. At the end of the day, the Brazils and Germanys and Englands and Italys will be there, but the gap is closing."
Keeping awake the soccer faithful back home for the 1:30 a.m. CDT start, the Americans didn't disappoint, pulling off another of the upsets that have defined this World Cup.
The final eight will also include newcomer Senegal, either Japan or Turkey, and possibly South Korea, while defending champion France, Argentina and Portugal already have made the long flights home.
Led by Brian McBride and the 20-year-old Donovan, who both scored off counterattacks, the United States surprised a Mexican team that used to dominate their region.
It was the first World Cup meeting between the nations, and some fans back home in Mexico were crying following a loss that had been unthinkable a few hours earlier.
"It hurts us here," Jose Luis Luviano, a fan in Mexico City, said as he punched his chest. Tears melted the Mexican flags painted on his cheeks. "There has to be an end to this disgrace where (Americans) treat us like rats and idiots."
At the game, several thousand U.S. fans, decked out in red, white and blue, began taunting the Mexicans with chants of "Adios, amigos."
"We certainly earned bragging points for a few years to come," said Kaela Porter, a fan from Boston at Jeonju Stadium.
President Bush called the U.S. team 4 1/2 hours before the game to tell Arena he was confident the Americans would win.
"The country is really proud of the team," Bush said as players listened on a speaker phone. "A lot of people that don't know anything about soccer, like me, are all excited and pulling for you."
The American players, unaccustomed to attention in their own country, were surprised when they found out the president was on the phone.
"We were thinking -- which president?" Donovan said. "That was awesome. You could tell he genuinely cared. ... It wasn't like we went to him and asked. He wanted to call."
The United States plays Friday against Germany, a three-time World Cup champion that pushed the Americans around during a 2-0 victory at the 1998 World Cup.
"On paper, it looks to be no match. However, we don't play this game on paper," Arena said.
German coach Rudi Voeller said his team will be under more pressure as the favorites.
"The Americans have shown great morale here. No one believed that they would make the quarters," he said.
The U.S. victory against Mexico was right up there with its 1-0 upset of England in the 1950 World Cup. After that tournament, the Americans didn't return to soccer's showcase until 1990.
It was a shattering loss for Mexico, which spent decades beating the U.S. team. The United States was 0-21-3 against the Mexicans from 1937-80, but since 1991 the Americans have gone 9-6-5.
"We played very good football, but in football, you win by scoring goals and we didn't score any," Mexican forward Jared Borgetti said.
While the Mexicans held the ball for almost 70 percent of the game, they couldn't get it past Brad Friedel, who had another brilliant performance for his first World Cup shutout. He got some help on a non-call.
Portuguese referee Vitor Melo Pereira failed to whistle U.S. midfielder John O'Brien for punching the ball out of danger on a corner kick in the 57th minute. The Mexicans were incensed they weren't awarded a penalty kick.
"They showed the replay on the big screen and we saw it, 40,000 fans saw it," Mexico coach Javier Aguirre said.
O'Brien called it a "freak play," saying his arm was pushed up and accidentally hit the ball.
McBride put the Americans ahead when he beat goalkeeper Oscar Perez from 12 yards in the eighth minute after a 40-yard run by U.S. captain Claudio Reyna.
Reyna crossed to Josh Wolff, who was near the goal line. Wolff flicked the ball back to an open McBride, who hit the left side of the net with a hard, right-footed shot. Wolff didn't even look before passing.
"I made it hoping he would be there, that he would be in that space," Wolff said.
McBride said: "I knew if there was an opportunity for me to get the ball, it was on a layback like that."
With the Mexicans pressing, Donovan scored in the 65th minute on a header from just inside the 6-yard box off a cross from Eddie Lewis, who had sped upfield. Donovan then whipped off his shirt to celebrate.
"It was all Eddie," Donovan said. "It's hard to miss balls like that."
The game turned dirty, with each team getting five yellow cards and Mexican captain Rafael Marquez getting ejected in the 88th minute after head-butting Cobi Jones.
The Mexicans walked straight off, not even staying for the traditional exchange of shirts. The U.S. players had the field to themselves to celebrate -- and contemplate how far they've come.
"Someone said to me this is the World Cup for the minnows," U.S. Soccer Federation president Bob Contiguglia said, beaming with pride. "The minnows are becoming bigger fish."