United States coach Bob Bradley lauded Landon Donovan's character following the midfielder's match-winning performance against Algeria.
Donovan struck the only goal of the game in injury-time as the US, who would have been out if they had only managed a draw, ended up not only securing a place in the last 16 with the victory but also finished top of Group C.
An emotional Donovan broke down in tears during the post-match press conference as he spoke of what has been a turbulent time in his life, which included separation from his wife last year.
Donovan said: "I've been through a lot in the last four years, and I'm so glad it culminated this way. It makes me believe in good in the world, and when you try to do things the right way it's good to see them get rewarded."
Bradley also heaped praise on the 28-year-old Los Angeles Galaxy playmaker following the match at Pretoria's Loftus Versfeld stadium, where the United States put the disappointment of their failure at the 2006 World Cup firmly behind them.
Four years ago, the United States finished bottom of the group stages after losing their final game against Ghana, when a victory would have put them through.
When asked about Donovan's development in recent times, Bradley said: "Without a doubt Landon has grown in so many different ways. "From the soccer end, he mentions the low after the World Cup in 2006. But there was also the challenge of taking a bigger role, being more responsible as a leader.
"I think these kinds of challenges came at a good time for him and he's never shied away from challenges.
"Over these years, both on and off the field, I think the fact that he's grown and matured and accepted these types of challenges has made a huge difference."
Donovan, who was named man of the match, added: "There were two (low points) really. Soccer-related was immediately after the 2006 World Cup, personally was in July of last year.
"But those experiences can harden you and help you grow if you learn from them and if you look at them the right way. I've spent a lot of time and done a lot of work to get something out of those experiences, and I think it all came together tonight."
While the US look forward to a last 16 showdown against Ghana, Algeria are making their way home after finishing bottom of the group in their first finals appearance since 1986.
The Desert Foxes started well tonight, hitting the crossbar early on through Rafik Djebbour, and they had other chances as well, although it was the US who enjoyed many more opportunities in an entertaining match.
Despite his side's exit, Algeria coach Rabah Saadane was pleased with his side's performance and believes the damage to their World Cup hopes was done in their first match when they suffered a late defeat to Slovenia.
"I think we managed to create a lot of opportunities today. We didn't have long to adapt to the altitude, and I think the team did very well," he said.
"I think that the first match was the decisive match, we didn't get the right result then and I think that's probably the lesson we need to take home with us."
Saadane was less happy with his side's troubles in front of goal, with Algeria unable to get off the mark in South Africa and now having netted just once in their last seven matches.
"I think we could have done better (against the US), we shot from distance a great deal, we had a number of goalscoring chances and we should have done better," he said.
"There was a also lot of pressure on the strikers and I think they missed a number of chances because of the pressure on them."