What are the chances US advances out of Group G?
The United States picked up a huge win over Ghana in its opening game of the 2014 World Cup. The loss was critical to the team advancing from Group G, but it’s far from a done deal.
So what are the chances the USA advances out of the proverbial “Group of Death”? The official number, according to Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, is 63 percent.
It may be the best estimate, but it’s still an estimate that relies on ESPN’s Soccer Power Index, which can never be the perfect measure of a team’s ability.
So what does the U.S. need to do to advance to the knockout stage? We take a look.
1. Get a point
First and foremost, they need to get at least a draw and one point against Portugal (June 22) or Germany (June 26). The one point would give them four overall and likely put them in a tiebreaker scenario for the second spot in the group. If that one point comes against Germany — after a loss to Portugal — it could get ugly. In other words, they really need to get a point against Portugal. Even if Portugal beats Ghana, they would have four points and face a tough goal differential due to their 4-0 opening loss to Germany.
2. Root for Germany
It seems odd to root for another team in your own group to do well, but due to their 4-0 win over Portugal, U.S. fans should just pull for Germany to win the group. Yes, it’s odd, but the idea is to advance, not necessarily to win the group. Group G faces Group H first in the knockout stage, and the seeding in Group H won’t be deadly regardless of rank. Belgium, Russia, South Korea and Algeria make up Group H. The winner is expected to be Belgium, but this is one of the weakest groups overall and is not top-heavy. Belgium is ranked No. 11 in the FIFA World Rankings. The USA is ranked No. 13. The FIFA rankings have plenty of problems, but the point is Belgium is not a disaster to avoid like top-heavy Group A (Brazil, Mexico, Cameroon, Croatia) or Group F (Argentina, Iran, Nigeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina). So let Germany beat Ghana as badly as it wants in its next game. Germany would likely hold any tiebreakers with the U.S. anyway if they lose or draw in its next two.
3. Just win, baby
This is where it gets simple: The U.S. basically just needs to win against Portugal or Germany and be golden for the next round. Either Ghana or Portugal would need to win both of its games to also earn six points and force a tiebreaker. Portugal would still be in a huge deficit — again because of that minus-4 goal differential — matched up with the Americans. If Ghana beats Germany and Portugal and overcomes its minus-1 goal differential, all the U.S. can do is tip its cap. And don’t count out the U.S. against Germany. If they have already beaten Ghana comfortably, Germany may play it safe in their final game against the USA.
Follow Metro New York Sports Editor Mark Osborne on Twitter @MetroNYSports.