How can the U.S. advance? We walk through the scenarios … All of them

24 Comments

The United States was seconds away from reaching the six-point plateau for the first time in the team’s group stage history, but thanks to Silvestre Valera’s 95th minute equalizer, a place in the knockout round is still slightly out of reach. Though the 2-2 draw leaves them tied atop Group G with Germany at the 2014 World Cup, the team may still need a result on Thursday to the second round.

Then again, they may not. If things break in the U.S.’s favor in the group’s finales, the team may already have enough points to make the final 16. Ahead of Thursday’s match against the Germans in Recife, here are the scenarios that will lead the U.S. out of Group G:

(Group standings, in points and goal difference: Germany, 4 pts., +4; United States, 4 pts. +1; Ghana, 1 pt., -1; Portugal, 1 pt., -4.)

If the United States beats Germany …

… they win Group G and face the second place team from Group H (currently Algeria).

If the United States draws with Germany …

… they finish second in Group G, behind the Germans. They’ll then face the winner of Group H (currently Belgium).

[ MORE: Valera equalizer stuns U.S. | Man of the Match rankings | Talking points ]
[ MORE: Soccerly covers the World Cup ]

If the United States loses to Germany, they still advance in second place if …

Warning: This is where it gets confusing.

1. Ghana and Portugal draw; or
2. Ghana beats Portugal (a) by only one goal, and (b) the U.S. loses by only one goal, and (c) Ghana doesn’t outscore the U.S. by two or more goals on the day; or
3. Portugal beats Ghana and fails to make up the five-goal gap in difference (see more, below).

Thanks to Portugal’s lopsided loss to Germany, the U.S. has a huge edge in that first, goal difference tiebreaker. Portugal would either have to blow out Ghana or benefit from the Germans routing the U.S.

Here are the scenarios — all of them — some of which involve the word “lots”:

  • If Germany beats the U.S. by five or more, Portugal only needs to beat Ghana to advance.
  • If Germany wins by four, Portugal advances if they beat Ghana at least two. If they win by one, Portugal can still advance if they end up with more total goals than the U.S. The Americans currently have four. Portugal has two. If the teams end up with the same number of goals, they’ll draw lots, leaving Group G’s second knockout round spot up to chance.
  • If Germany wins by three, Portugal advances if they win by three or more. Win by two: Total goals, then lots. Win by only one? They’re out.
  • If Germany wins by two, Portugal advanced if they win by four of more. Win by three: Goals and lots. Two or less: They’re done.
  • If Germany wins by one, Portugal advances with a  five-goal win. Four? Goals, lots. Three of fewer? Adeus.

[ MORE: Lots could decide Iran, Nigeria | Odds have U.S. going through ]
[ PST covers: World Cup | United States | Group G ]

Confused yet? This might make it easier. Here are the FIFA tiebreakers:

1. Goal difference in all group stage matches
2. Goals scored in all group stage matches
3. Points in matches between the tied teams
4. Goal difference in matches between the tied teams
5. Goals scored in matches between the tied teams
6. Draw lots

Ronaldo’s early tally gives Portugal win over Morocco

Stu Forster/Getty Images
Leave a comment

It was far from a convincing performance, but manager Fernando Santos and Co. came away with their first win at the World Cup and now sit in the drivers’ seat in Group B.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Portugal earned a narrow 1-0 win over Morocco on Wednesday, after Cristiano Ronaldo’s early header proved to be the difference.

Santos’ group now sits atop Group B with four points, while Morocco is eliminated after losing its first two matches.

It took just four minutes for Portugal to break the deadlock, with Ronaldo once again at the center of the Portuguese attack.

The Real Madrid man brilliantly latched onto a header at the near post off of a corner kick, giving Ronaldo his fourth goal at this World Cup (seventh goal overall).

Morocco did well to insert its presence in the match following the early goal, but various chances from Medhi Benatia and Hakim Ziyech weren’t enough to break past Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

The African side also had a legitimate appeal for a penalty kick in the first stanza, however, referee Mark Geiger opted to play on despite the Moroccan protest.

Morocco continued its pressure in the second half, and Patricio was forced to make an incredible save in the 57th minute when Younes Belhanda headed a cross towards the far corner.

Portugal will close out Group B play on June 25 against Iran, while Morocco takes on Spain

Arena says there’s no reason for Pulisic to leave Dortmund

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Christian Pulisic has been the subject of transfer talks for some time now after becoming an instant star at Borussia Dortmund, but one of the U.S. Men’s National Team’s former coaches says it might be wise for him to stay put; at least for now.

MORE: Ronaldo scores fourth goal in World Cup ]

Former USMNT boss Bruce Arena spoke about Pulisic, who has had rumors of moves to Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester United surrounding him recently.

Arena cited consistent playing time as the main reason why Pulisic may want to consider holding off on a transfer for now.

“I think Christian is in a great place. Dortmund has a very good reputation for developing players.

“In his couple years there with the first team, he’s done very well. Hopefully, he can continue to do that, be consistent at the club level, and if he does that, he’s going to be a real plus for the national team program.

“Any move Christian makes in the future, it’s important he goes to a club where he plays on a regular basis. There’s no point in him leaving Dortmund and going to a club where he doesn’t get the kind of minutes he needs to continue to develop.”

Pulisic has spent three seasons at Dortmund, scoring 12 goals in all competitions during that span.

Video: Ronaldo scores fourth goal, gives Portugal early lead

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
1 Comment

He has four goals in less than two matches, and Portugal is off to another flying start courtesy of their star forward.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Cristiano Ronaldo gave the Portuguese a 1-0 lead against Morocco in the fourth minute after brilliantly heading home a corner kick.

The Real Madrid star gave Portugal a similar spark at the beginning of their 3-3 draw against Spain in their first Group B match when Ronaldo drew, and scored a penalty kick inside of the opening three minutes.

Is there anything this man cannot do?

Reports: Alli unlikely to play in England’s second Group G match

AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
Leave a comment

The Three Lions may not have taken all good news away from the team’s 2-1 win over Tunisia in their World Cup opener.

[ MORE: Russia races past Egypt, likely en route to next round ]

Several reports are suggesting that England will likely be without Tottenham playmaker Dele Alli in their second Group G match against Panama on Sunday.

Alli was forced out of England’s opener with a thigh strain, which gave manager Gareth Southgate the decision to put in Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

There isn’t a timetable for the 22-year-old’s return to the pitch, but his absence will definitely present a major question for Southgate heading into the rest of group play.

Without Alli in the starting XI, it’ll likely be between Loftus-Cheek and Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard to fill the role where Alli normally sits.

In the case of Lingard, who started against Tunisia, the England boss would have to bring in another starter if Southgate opts to have the Red Devils attacker sit in as the number 10.