The United States men’s national team blew a golden opportunity to advance to the knockout round of the 2014 World Cup, allowing a game-tying goal to Portugal in the 95th minute.
It was a stomach punch.
Still, the U.S. is favoured to get out of Group G going into the final group game against Germany, although there is a nightmare scenario.
Here are the current group standings:
Let’s run through the ways the U.S. can get through:
1. Win against Germany
The U.S. would win the group with 7 points. Fun times, but it probably won’t happen. ESPN’s SPI index says there’s only a 14% chance of the U.S. beating the Germans.
2. Draw against Germany
A draw would send both the U.S. and Germany into the knockout round. Sometimes in this situation, the teams play for an unofficially agreed-upon draw — a “fixed draw” as they call it. There’s going to be a ton of conspiracy talk this week because of this.
Conspiracy or not, the U.S. would finish 2nd in the group behind Germany (on the goal difference tiebreaker) with a draw.
3. Lose to Germany, Portugal draws Ghana
No matter what happens in USA-Germany, the Americans will go into the round of 16 if Portugal and Ghana draw. The U.S. currently has 4 points, Portugal and Ghana would each finish with just 2 points if they drew.
4. Lose to Germany, Portugal beats Ghana, U.S. advances on goal difference
The U.S. will likely get into the knockout stage with a loss if Portugal beats Ghana, as long as neither game is a blowout. In that scenario, the U.S. and Portugal would tie for 2nd place in the group with 4 points.
The tiebreaker is goal difference. Right now the U.S. has a goal difference of +1, while Portugal has a goal difference of -4 after getting destroyed 4-0 by Germany. This is good for the U.S.
As long as Portugal doesn’t make up five goals on the U.S. on Thursday, the U.S. is through with a Portugal win.
5. The nightmare scenario where the U.S. loses to Germany, Ghana beats Portugal, and the U.S. can only advance on the goals-scored tiebreaker.
This is the nightmare scenario.
If Ghana and the U.S. each end up with 4 points, the goal difference tiebreaker becomes more complicated.
The U.S. currently has a goal differential of +1 while Ghana has a goal differential of -1.
In this scenario, if Ghana wins by more than one goal or the U.S. loses by more than one goal, Ghana would have a better goal differential and advance.
If both teams have the same goal differential (for example, both teams would have a goal difference of 0 if the U.S. loses 1-0 and Ghana wins 1-0), then we go to the 2nd tiebreaker: goals scored.
Right now the U.S. has scored 4 goals while Ghana has scored 3 goals.
If Ghana wins, say, 2-1 and the U.S. loses 1-0, Ghana would finish with 5 goals in the tournament to the U.S.’s 4, and Ghana would advance. So if the U.S. is going to lose to Germany, they’re better off doing it scoring a ton of goals.
There is one more scenario where the U.S. and Ghana would need a THIRD tiebreaker. If Germany beats the U.S. 1-0 and Ghana beats Portugal 1-0, then the two teams would be tied on both goal difference (0) and goals scored (4). In that scenario, the tiebreaker would be head-to-head goal difference. The U.S. would go through because they beat Ghana 2-1.
In conclusion: The U.S. should be fine unless they lose to Germany and Ghana wins. Then things get really hairy.
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