(CBS SF) – Despite a crushing last-second goal that prevented the United States Men’s National Soccer Team from clinching a birth in the single-elimination rounds of the tournament, the squad is still sitting pretty heading into the final game of pool play against Germany Thursday.
Portugal and Ghana will face off at 9 a.m. Pacific time Thursday and each team must have a victory if it hopes to pass the U.S. or group-leading Germany to advance. The path for the American team – which plays Germany at the same time – is much more open. Here are the ways Team USA could move on:
Beat Germany – The Germans have among the most formidable offenses in the world and a history of advancing deep into the tournament. An upset of Germany would be shocking, but just a few weeks ago the same would have been said about the U.S. boys beating Portugal, and that result was just seconds away Sunday. A win over Germany would not only see the U.S. on to the next round, but would also make them the number one seed coming out of the “Group of Death.”
Draw With Germany – If the Americans and Germans just take the ball into the corner and twiddle their thumbs for 90 minutes, both teams will move on to the knockout round with five points each. They won’t even have to worry about what happens in the Ghana-Portugal game. We don’t expect that to happen, but a draw isn’t out of the question. That’s all the Americans need to advance with the 2nd place birth from Group G.
Portugal-Ghana Draw – Even if the American squad falls flat on it’s face Thursday against Germany it can may move on with a little help from former foes. An even score between Ghana and Portugal would leave those two nations with two points apiece (one for each draw they were involved in). With a win and a tie under it’s belt, the American team has already earned four points.
Non-Blowout Victory By Portugal/Modest lost by USA – If the American men fall to Germany it will be important to limit the number of goals by which they lose. The first tiebreaker in World Cup pool play is “goal differential,” meaning the total of the number of goals scored subtracted by the number of goals allowed. The Portuguese team gave up four to the German team in their opening match, so even if they defeat Ghana Thursday, they would have to make up the difference in goal differential, which currently sits at 5.
Modest Victory By Ghana Combined With Modest Loss By USA – Team USA has the head-to-head victory over Ghana, but that won’t matter if Ghana can close the two-goal differential gap in Thursdays games. This means you’ll likely be pulling for Portugal on Thursday if you want to see Team USA advance.
Pure Luck – If the U.S. Men end up in a tie with Portugal on points, goal differential and total goals scored the team to move on will be determined by drawing lots, essentially a lottery, according to soccer federation rules.
Bottom Line – Obviously team USA fans will be rooting for a win or tie versus Germany, but failing that, we’ll want to see both games stay very close. If nobody wins either game by more than a goal, we’ll see the Americans in the round of 16.