Ghana and Germany played to a spirited draw that featured four second half goals in the span of 20 minutes. The result sets the United States up for a chance to clinch advancement to the second round, if they can handle Portugal, though there are plenty of reasons for concern, setting aside the USMNT’s dismal record in following up World Cup successes.
Here are the various scenarios entering Sunday:
- USA win over Portugal = the U.S. advances out of the group. The game with Germany would then be for 1st or 2nd, with the USA winning the group with a draw or win, and finishing 2nd with a loss to Germany;
- USA draw against Portugal, plus win over Germany = USA wins group;
- USA draw against Portugal, plus draw with Germany = USA advances as 2nd place team in group;
- USA draw against Portugal, plus loss to Germany and Portugal-Ghana draw = USA advances as 2nd place team in group;
- USA draw against Portugal, plus loss to Germany, with Ghana or Portugal winning outright = comes down to goal differential between USA and Ghana-Portugal winner for 2nd place. The USA would probably be in trouble if it was Ghana as they would have a goal difference of at least 0, and have already scored 3. The USA would be in decent shape against Portugal thanks to the 4-0 loss to Germany, so long as the USA avoids a blowout to the Germans.
- USA loss against Portugal, plus win over Germany = USA definitely advances, likely as group winners, unless Portugal wins against Ghana and overtakes USA in goal difference.
- USA loss against Portugal, plus draw against Germany, plus Portugal-Ghana draw = US advances so long as they lost to Portugal by 2 or less. A 3 goal loss would give Portugal the goal difference tiebreaker.
- USA loss against Portugal, plus draw against Germany, plus Ghana win = would come down to goal difference between USA and Ghana for 2nd place in group.
- USA loss against Portugal, plus draw against Germany, plus Portugal win = USA eliminated, Portugal wins group.
- USA loss against Portugal, plus loss to Germany = USA eliminated
So, it comes down to this. One win means the USA advances, and at least 4 points in the last two games clinches advancement as group winner. Two draws means the USA advances. One draw along with a loss leaves the USA open to advancement, but at the mercy of the goal difference tiebreaker, and two losses is definite elimination.
It’s all there for the USA, but Sunday’s game just became even bigger with that draw that leaves Ghana alive and Germany still needing at least a point to guarantee advancement. You don’t want to go up against a German team that has not officially clinched advancement on the final day of group play needing a result. A result against Portugal is not mandatory, but in practical terms, will likely be required.