[BRAZIL 2014]So, you ask, how does the situation look in Group G? Germany is sitting very pretty. Ghana has been given a second life. Portugal is still as good as dead. And the USA? Has a tie ever felt so bad? Strictly based on the nine possible combinations of outcomes of Thursday's two remaining games, the probability of the USA advancing is about 90 percent. But Jurgen Klinsmann will wake on Monday morning thinking about one nightmare scenario ...
PTS TEAM W-L-T GF/GA (+/-)
4 Germany 1-1-0 6/2(+4)
4 USA 1-1-0 4/3(+1)
1 Ghana 0-1-1 3/4(-1)
1 Portugal 0-1-1 2/6 (-4)
June 26 in Recife
USA vs. Germany
ESPN, Univision/UDN noon ET
June 26 in Brasilia
Portugal vs. Ghana
ESPN2, UniMas/Galavision noon ET
We all know that the USA advances if it beats or ties Germany on Thursday. The great fear is that the USA -- exhausted after the 2-2 tie with Portugal and with a day less to recover than Germany -- loses to the Germans, who are brimming with options to come off the bench.
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The end of the day? Not necessarily.
A Ghana-Portugal tie is as good as a USA-Germany tie -- it would send both the USA and Germany into the next round.
A Portugal win over Ghana is not going to do the Portuguese any good. They'd have to make up a deficit of five goals vis-à-vis the USA -- or eight goals on the Germans -- to get back to even on goal difference. It ain't going to happen, folks.
But that leaves the nightmare scenario. If you'd bet money on anything happening on Thursday, it's Ghana beating Portugal in Brasilia. Asamoah Gyan and the Ayew brothers should have a field day with the banged-up Portuguese defense.
A Ghana win and USA loss would leave the USA and Ghana tied with four points.
If this was a UEFA competition -- the Champions League or the Euros -- no problem: the USA wins the first tiebreaker (head-to-head) thanks to its win in Natal. But the first tiebreaker at the World Cup is goal difference.
Anything but one-goal margins of victory in the USA-Germany and Ghana-Portugal games would send the Black Stars through on goal difference if they won and the USA lost.
One-goal margins of victory would leave the USA and Ghana tied on goal difference at zero, in which case the next tiebreaker would be goals scored, where the USA leads Ghana four goals to three goals.
Only if the USA and Ghana were tied on goals scored, would the head-to-head tiebreaker be used -- in which case the USA win in Natal would send it into the next round and send Ghana home.
As an example, 1-0 results on Thursday do Ghana no good. The USA and Ghana would finish with four points each and four goals for and against, invoking the head-to-head tiebreaker.
(There is no possibility of FIFA's nightmare scenario. If two teams finish tied in points, goal difference and goals scored, FIFA draws lots to determine the second-place team.)
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STATS.The conventional wisdom was that the USA dominated the game against Portugal, but for the second game in a row the USA was outshot. Not as bad as when it was outshot by Ghana, 21-8, but the Portuguese finished with a 21-15 edge in shots.
The fact is, Ghana did a very poor job of taking advantage of its possession, sending in numerous meaningless crosses and hitting wild shots. Against the Black Stars, Tim Howard only needed to make two saves, but he was called up to make five saves against Portugal.
As good as the USA was on the defensive end against Ghana, it was very sloppy against Portugal.
Shots:USA 15 / POR 21
Shots on Goal:USA 5 / POR 7
Saves:USA 5 / POR 3
Corner Kicks: USA 6 / POR 4
Fouls:USA 11 / POR 14
Offside:USA 1 / POR 4
REACTION. One ofJurgen Klinsmann's great strengths hasbeen always positive demeanor. But he obviously shaken by the late Silvestre Varela equalizer, taking a shot at the tournament organizers in his immediate post-game comments.
"We have one day less to recover," he told ESPN of Thursday's game against Germany, which played Ghana 30 hours earlier. "They played yesterday, we played today. We played in the Amazon and they played in the very kind of location where they don't have to travel much. Everything was done for the big favorites to go and move on. We have to do it the tough way, but we're going to do it the tough way."
With a schedule of three games a day, three of the eight groups will end with two teams having one more day or rest than their opponents: Group A, Group D and Group G. The other key matches affected are Mexico-Croatia and Uruguay-Italy. In the case of Mexico's El Tri, it not only has the edge going into the Croatia, it has five days between games.
The USA will only have three days between. What Klinsmann did not point out it is that Portugal will be the same boat with only three days of rest before its game against Ghana in which USA's hopes may come down to the Portuguese getting a result.
June 22 in Manaus
USA 2 Portugal 2.Goals: Jones 64, Dempsey 81; Nani 5, Varela 90+5.
USA --Howard; Johnson, Cameron, Besler, Beasley; Beckerman, Jones; Bedoya (Yedlin, 72), Bradley, Zusi (Gonzalez, 90+1); Dempsey (Wondolowski, 87).
Portugal --Beto; Alves, Costa, A.Almeida (William, 46), 21-Joao Pereira; Veloso, Moutinho, Raul Meireles (Varela, 69); Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Heider Postiga (Eder, 16).