Germany handed Portugal its worst loss in World Cup history today, drubbing Cristiano Ronaldo & Co. 4-0. What does it mean for the United States before it plays Ghana later today in Natal, Brazil?
Germany lived up to its billing: If you’ve been reading my World Cup stuff for the site, I’ve had Germany as the most overrated team in Brazil and boy did Angela Merkel’s boys make me look dumb (er than usual) vs. Portugal. Germany with its array of attacking talent from Thomas Müller to Mesut Özil to Mario Götze should continue its record streak of reaching the knockout rounds. Once there, anything can happen. Germany won’t play the rest of the World Cup against 10 men for the majority of the match, so remember bear that in mind. Teams will surely get more defensive as the tournament progresses. (Conversely Portugal can’t play that poorly again, can it?)
Reminder: you can’t win the World Cup in the first Group Stage match, you can — like Portugal — put yourself in an awfully difficult position.
See ya: Nobody wants to root for injuries. A player getting himself sent off for a totally, insane unwarranted head butt like Pepe did? That’s another story. We can relish in the Portugal defender’s patent stupidity. Portugal also lost another defender, Fábio Coentrão, when he was carried off with an injury in the second half. Starting German center back Mats Hummels also limped off, joining the team’s extensive MASH Unit alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Ronaldo doesn’t look 100 percent: Ronaldo, the best player on the planet not named Lionel Messi, had another World Cup game to forget, playing 90 listless, half-speed minutes in the midday Brazilian heat. The Real Madrid star also became increasingly petulant as the match wore on, expending the most energy to bitch at the ref. Even so, write Ronaldo off on Sunday vs. the U.S. at your own peril. He might only be 75-80 percent, but Ronaldo can still victimize the U.S. on his set piece delivery, assuming he doesn’t spend Sunday in Manaus pouting.
Goal difference, the difference?: There are FAR too many permutations to start hypotheticals with only one of the six Group G games played. The most realistic scenario? Let’s say Germany rolls through and wins each game to get nine points. There is a situation the U.S. could get through with a win and draw (4 points), but goal differential could come into play. Portugal dug itself a massive hole allowing four goals. Plus, playing Germany last, the U.S. will know what it has to do in the final game — is in avoiding a loss by x-many goals. It’s a little clearer for Portugal: it knows it has to beat the U.S. on Sunday to have a realistic shot moving in the final game of the group.
Given Portugal’s four-goal defeat, the U.S. could draw Ghana and it wouldn’t be the worst result in the world … assuming it could beat either Portugal or Germany. Since switching to its current format in 1998, 11 of the 21 teams to finish the World Cup group stage with four points have advanced including the United States in 2002.
ESPN’s inimitable Paul Carr updates the math:
Looking way ahead: Germany might be in line to rest players in the final group day, but it’s not like its backups are a bunch of worthless scrubs. Most teams wouldn’t mind Lukas Poldolski, Julian Draxler and Andre Schürrle as backups, would they? The U.S. will have its work cut out for it, but nicking a draw doesn’t seem as far flung should Germany have already clinched a place in the Round of 16 before June 22.
The Cart Before the Horse: Germany drubbing Portugal is a perfect result for the United States, but as we’ve seen throughout U.S. Soccer history, the good vibes rarely last all that long before the other shoe drops.