The United States' 2-2 draw against Portugal in the World Cup on Sunday can be described by any combination of gut-wrenching, disappointing, deflating or depressing.
Yet despite the monumental letdown of those last few seconds in Manaus, the U.S. men's team is still in good position to advance to the knockout round for the second straight World Cup.
The U.S. can advance after its third match on Thursday through two ways:
Win or draw against Germany
The Americans showed plenty of resolve in their win against Ghana and draw against Portugal, so earning a result against the powerful German team on Thursday is clearly not out of the question. A win against Germany would give the U.S. first place in the "Group of Death" while a draw would see the Germans take the top spot. Either way, the Americans would be playing a knockout game in the round of 16.
What's interesting is the Germans also just need a draw to advance so might the two sides be interested in playing a 90-minute game of hacky sack? U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann is vehemently denying such an arrangement. But if it were to happen, U.S. fans would feel a lot better about a draw against Germany on Thursday than the one that just went in the books against Portugal.
Lose to Germany and then get help from the Ghana-Portugal match
The U.S. could lose to Germany and still advance if Ghana and Portugal play to a draw. If either Ghana or Portugal wins and the U.S. loses, the Americans would have four points in the standings, the same as the winner of that match. The Americans would then have to win a tiebreaker against that team.
Here are the FIFA tiebreakers in the order they come into play:
- Goal differential (Germany 4, U.S. 1, Ghana -1, Portugal -4)
- Goals scored (Germany 6, U.S. 4, Ghana 3, Portugal 2)
- Head to head result (The U.S. beat Ghana, but drew against Portugal)
- Drawing of lots (A random drawing, but this would only come into play with a blowout Portugal win and/or a blowout U.S loss considering the goal differential between the two teams is now a total of five goals.)
So, put simply, Americans should be rooting for Portugal if there has to be a winner because the spread in goal differential (1 to -4) is so great that it's unlikely Portugal would make it up to bring goals scored into play (a category that the U.S also leads 4 to 2 over Portugal).
But if Ghana wins and the U.S. loses, it gets a lot hairier since a U.S. loss by more than one goal or a Ghana win by more than one goal would tip the goal differential scales in favor of Ghana and leave the U.S. on the outside looking in. However, it should be said that a 2-2 draw against Portugal was much better for the Americans than 1-1 as it fattened the team's goal scored category.
Will it be easy for the U.S. to secure one of those coveted 16 spots?
Nope. As you saw Sunday, nothing ever comes easy when it comes to the U.S. program.
But all hope is clearly not lost. In fact, it's quite the opposite for the U.S.