Clint Dempsey (above left) celebrates after his goal made it 2-1 U.S. over Portugal.

By Ben Sullivan

Following the thrilling 2-2 draw between the U.S. and Portugal, here are the scenarios that would allow the U.S. to clinch a spot in the round of 16.

Remaining fixtures:
– Thursday U.S. vs. Germany (ESPN, noon ET); Portugal vs. Ghana (ESPN2, noon ET)

Simplest Scenarios

– Germany: Advance with win/draw vs. USA
– United States: Advance with win/draw vs. GER
– Portugal: Advance with win vs. GHA AND GER/USA do not tie, IF POR wins tiebreak with loser (see below)
– Ghana: Advance with win vs. POR AND GER/USA do not tie, IF GHA wins tiebreak with loser (see below)

U.S. Scenarios

– Win/draw vs. Germany
– Loss and Portugal-Ghana draw
– Loss and win tiebreaker vs. Portugal-Ghana winner

Updated Soccer Power Index odds to advance:

– Germany: 99.7 percent

– United States: 75.8 percent

– Ghana: 19.1 percent
– Portugal: 5.4 percent


If the United States loses, Ghana would qualify instead if either game is decided by a margin of two goals or more. If the U.S. loses by one goal, Ghana would need to win by two goals or be involved in a higher-scoring one-goal win. For instance, a 1-0 scoreline in both games would put the United States through on head-to-head. So, if the U.S. loses 1-0, then Ghana must win 2-1 to qualify on goals scored.

To surpass the U.S., Portugal will need a goal-difference swing of five (head-to-head is level). So for instance, Portugal would need to win 3-0 and U.S. lose 2-0, among other equivalent scorelines. The teams will draw lots if goal difference is identical (this would happen with a 3-0 U.S. defeat and a 2-0 Portugal win, for example).

If the United States and Germany draw on Thursday, both will advance to the knockout stage regardless of Ghana and Portugal’s result. There have already been questions about how much attacking will occur in that match, as there’s precedent for German involvement in a mutually-assured advancement situation.

In 1982, West Germany was in a group with Algeria, Austria and Chile. A 3-2 Algeria win in its last match meant Algeria would be the first team to reach the knockout stage unless West Germany beat Austria by one or two goals — in which case both European sides would advance. After Germany’s Horst Hrubesch put the Germans in front in the 10th minute, both teams realized they were through if results held and basically stopped playing for the final 80 minutes (0 shots, barely any tackles, etc.).

The incident is what prompted FIFA to change the format of the final match of the group stage. All four teams in a group now play their third match simultaneously to avoid this scenario.

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