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USA-Portugal: An opportunity lost
by Paul Kennedy, June 23rd, 2014 1:27AM

TAGS:  men's national team, world cup 2014


[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 ...

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.

WORLD CUP AT A GLANCE: Scenarios, Standings, Schedules

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.)

Soccer America Confidentials
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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 of Jurgen Klinsmann's great strengths has been 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).
Att.: 40,123.

  1. Mark Hardt
    commented on: June 23, 2014 at 9:10 a.m.
    A 2-2 draw against the world #4 is a good result. After one early goal Portugal and Spain Fell apart in their first matches. The US regrouped and dominated play. Ronaldo should have been marked or fouled on that last play giving time to set up. Other than that playing even with the world #4 is only a good sign our program is moving on up (to the east side).

  1. DonJuego Lee
    commented on: June 23, 2014 at 9:21 a.m.
    Draw was good result -- but not that way. How do you get beat to your own goal when the ball was at their corner flag, up a goal, in the 95th minute? How do you not have 10 behind the ball? How do you leave Beasley alone with CR7? How does Portugal get a counter-attack goal? Horrific mental meltdown by the entire team. But oh so Proud of the overall game. GoGoUSA.

  1. New WorldOrder
    commented on: June 23, 2014 at 9:46 a.m.
    This just shows how off Fifa is with their rankings. Portugal in no way deserves to be a top 10 team or top 20 team for that matter. Lets not kid pourselves. Ghana and Germany are the better 2 teams in this group. USA was as lucky as they get to have beaten Ghana. Portugal vs USA was closer to both team's capabilities. Ghana vs Germany tie was also to both team's capablities. Bunkering in the back is never a good sign that any program is moving on up.

  1. Fingers Crossed
    commented on: June 23, 2014 at 10:06 a.m.
    The tie is disappointing given that we had the lead so late in the game but we have four points after two games which is exactly where we wanted to be after the first two games. We have achieved exactly what we set out to do. We can hem and haw all about the last goal forever but we have a game against Germany in which we only need a point. Germany does not have to beat us to advance so they will not be as motivated to win the game. We are in a good position with an excellent chance to move forward. Let's not forget that.

  1. Terry Ellis
    commented on: June 23, 2014 at 11:08 a.m.
    The USMNT nevers seems to make it hum drum! :) But if this doesn't stir soccer fever in the US I don't know what will. Now praying for a tie for Portugal/Ghana and a tie for Germany/US. It could happen! Course a US win would be incredible but we will all know on Thursday. Go USA!!!

  1. Chris Sapien
    commented on: June 23, 2014 at 11:45 a.m.
    Well Mr. Worldorder, If that's the best you can conclude from yesterday, than I could counter your argument that maybe the US is ranked too low! Since Spain and England are clearly going home, France demolishes Switzerland, and Italy and Uruguay lose to much lower ranked opponents, not to mention the US outplays top 5 ranked Portugal, what you really mean is we should be ranked higher!? I agree, well done.

  1. New WorldOrder
    commented on: June 23, 2014 at 11:58 a.m.
    Chris, you can conclude whatever you want. Lets look at all these teams. Concacaf defenitely deserves more respect. Spain showed at Confederations they were no where near being #1 when they got manhandled by Brazil. Portugal barely made it to this world cup and #4?? Switzerland got an easy group but no where near top 10. England ?? No where near top 10 either. Greece plays very close to USA style of play but has not been as liucky. Both play at 20's rank if that.

  1. New WorldOrder
    commented on: June 23, 2014 at 12:01 p.m.
    My Top 10's - Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Netherlands, France, Costa Rica, uruguay, Italy.

  1. New WorldOrder
    commented on: June 23, 2014 at 12:07 p.m.
    My 10-20's - Mexico, Ghana, Ivory Coast, England, Croatia, Nigeria, Algeria, Switzerland, Ecuador, Belgium

  1. New WorldOrder
    commented on: June 23, 2014 at 12:09 p.m.
    Thats what they deserve right now. After this world cup it will change drastically. Top 8 will be Germany, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, France, Argentina, Costa Rica, Chile.

  1. cisco martinez
    commented on: June 23, 2014 at 12:18 p.m.
    USA played well enough to win, so to tie was heart breaking. USA still has roughly a 70% chance of making it to the next round, my worry against Portugal was the 1v1 battles on the wings, tactically Klinsmann's 4-3-2-1 defensive shape gave possession all to Portugal, however our wing play at times looked great on Fabian Johnson's side and when Yedlin came in, we looked dangerous with his pace.

  1. gill agee
    commented on: June 23, 2014 at 3:05 p.m.
    The tie was NOT heartbreaking. If told that the US would have a win and a tie back in May, we all would have been thrilled. If you want a regret, it was the poor play at the beginning that gave away a soft goal. The 2nd Portugal goal was just classic play from a great team.

  1. Rene Guerra
    commented on: June 24, 2014 at 12:26 a.m.
    Come on, say it; Michael gave away the ball that four seconds later Portugal put in the U.S. net TO TIE THE GAME 2-2!!

  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: June 24, 2014 at 8:32 p.m.
    Another example of bad decision-making process. Bradley gets a loose ball and instead of sending it up field, he gets stripped and the Portuguese capitalize. That huge mistake cost the victory and gave CR7 a chance to redeem himself...It wasn't heartbreaking, it was a poor IQ2 soccer decision.

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