Even though it feels like our hearts were ripped out of our chests by Portugal’s last-second (literally), game-tying goal against the U.S. Men’s National Team on June 22, the tie wasn’t actually the fatal blow it felt like.
The United States Men’s National Team were up 2-1 against Portugal, the fourth-ranked team in the world, on June 22 with less than a minute to go. Michael Bradley had the ball in Portugal territory but mishandled it, and seconds later Cristiano Ronaldo was floating the ball into the U.S.’s penalty area and Silvestre Varela was heading it into the net. You could practically hear the tears falling in every bar across America. That’s how close the United States were to clinching a spot in the second round.
World Cup 2014: The U.S. Is Down, But Definitely Not Out
But even though the tie (never before has the American hate for ties been more illuminated) felt like a soul-crushing loss, something that destroyed the United States’ World Cup hopes, it wasn’t.
I know this sounds like a loser’s mentality, but the 2-2 draw with Portugal was actually a pretty good result for the boys in red, white and blue. It just doesn’t feel like it because the U.S. were about 15 seconds away from eliminating Cristiano Ronaldo and his fancy shaved haircut teammates and guaranteeing themselves a spot in the Round of 16. Having a 100% chance of moving onto the knockout phase would have been ideal, but the team’s probability is still pretty high.
Sitting in second place behind Germany with four points, the USMNT has a 76% chance of making it out of Group G, according to FiveThirtyEight.
Team USA: What Needs To Happen For Them To Advance
There are two simple scenarios in which the United States will advance: 1) If they beat or tie Germany on June 26, and 2) if Portugal and Ghana tie their June 26 game. Things will still look pretty decent for them even if they lose against Germany and Portugal and Ghana don’t draw — though it gets a little complicated.
If the U.S. loses and either Ghana or Portugal win on June 26, they’ll be tied for second place and tiebreakers — goal differential or total goals scored — will determine who advances. So if the U.S. loses, they need to hope that either Ghana doesn’t win too dominantly against Portugal, or vice versa.
Another thing working in the USMNT’s favor — tying with Germany would also benefit the Germans, so there is a good chance that both teams will be playing more conservatively just trying to survive the game and head into the next round. I’m not saying U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann should call up the Germans and strike a deal, but just like the Portugal game, a tie would actually help the Americans.
But they can’t sit on their heels hoping for things to break their way — the USMNT should be gunning for a win against Germany and the top spot in Group G. Because we’ve already nearly tasted what it’d be like to advance out of the Group of Death only to have it cruelly ripped away from us.
We can’t have that happen again.
— Andrew Gruttadaro