WASHINGTON, June 24, 2014 – Portugal’s last-second goal against the U.S. last Sunday robbed America of a win, but did not knock it out of contention for the World Cup.
Heading into the final game in Group play — the round-robin part of the World Cup Tournament — the U.S. and Germany both have 4 points and Portugal and Ghana each have 1.
The top two teams from each group advance to the knockout round.
That means everything depends on the games Thursday, with the U.S. playing Germany and Portugal playing Ghana. Both games take place at noon Eastern Time.
If the United States beats Germany, the U.S. will win the group. Germany would likely finish second, unless Ghana or Portugal wins and scores a ton of goals, which is unlikely.
If Germany wins, Germany will win the group. Right now, the U.S. is poised to take the second spot, but could lose it if Ghana or Portugal wins their game and scores more goals than the United States.
Goal differential – the number of goals scored by a team versus the number of goals scored against a team – will determine a tie. The U.S. has a goal differential of +1, Ghana has a goal differential of -1, and Portugal has a goal differential of -4.
If Germany and the U.S. tie, Germany wins the group and the U.S. takes second place. Both move on, and the result of the Portugal-Ghana game does not impact the group standings.
Likewise, if Ghana and Portugal tie, the U.S. and Germany will go to the knockout round, regardless of the result of the U.S.-Germany game.
If two teams tie in goal differential, the tie-break is decided by the total number of goals a team has scored. Germany has scored six goals so far, the United States has scored four, Ghana has scored three and Portugal has scored two.
Right now, the following teams are eliminated from even potentially going to the next round: Cameroon, Croatia, Australia, England and Bosnia.
Theoretically, any of the other 32 teams could win the tournament.
Realistically, not so much.
Based on a model by ESPN’s Soccer Power Index, Brazil has a 38% chance of winning the tournament. Watching Neymar’s amazing performance in the game against Cameroon, the prediction is hard to argue.
The next closest competitor, statistically speaking, is Argentina, with a 14% chance. Argentina is blessed with one of the greatest players in the world, Lionel Messi, which could give the team a boost. Germany has an 11% chance and the Netherlands has a 10% chance.
The USA’s chances are less than 1 percent.
Already, though, the U.S. has gained respect from the World. Long considered odd-man-out in men’s soccer, the Americans have won respect for their play so far.
“I have to admit, the U.S. is playing well,” said Colombian fan Carlos Guidardo after the U.S.-Portugal game, “They play with a lot of heart and, I have to say, quite a bit of skill.”
U.S. fans were harder on their team. “A minute left to go? You maintain possession. Anyone who plays soccer knows that,” said Tracee Garbutt, a long-time soccer player from Orlando, Florida, “Heck, I would have fallen on the ball and pretended I had a cramp if I had to.”
Despite the models and the predictions, anyone still in the tournament could take home the Cup.
While chances that it will be the U.S. are small, we’re not out yet.
Be sure to watch U.S. v. Germany On Thursday, June 26, 2014.