After watching an amazing USMNT 2-1 victory over Portugal turn into the most heartbreaking 2-2 draw that American fans can imagine with just moments left in the match, it's hard to be overly optimistic as an American soccer fan right now. With Germany looming, it certainly doesn't feel like the United States is still a favorite to advance to the round of 16. Luckily, the numbers are far kinder to the U.S. than many of us probably are at this time. Even if the United States loses to Germany at noon on Thursday, June 26, the team still have a very good chance of advancing, mostly because of Germany's first game 4-0 trouncing of Portugal.
According to Nate Silver's analytics-based blog FiveThirtyEight, the U.S. has a 76% chance of advancing at the moment.
">June 23, 2014
That is even with, again according to FiveThirtyEight, the U.S. having a 64% chance to lose to Germany. The site gives the team a 22% chance for a draw, and 14% chance to beat the Germans.
So how does that all work out? Well as of today, the Group G table looks like this:
">June 23, 2014
The two other contenders, Ghana and Portugal, have one point each, so neither can finish with more than four points. A U.S. win, which would give them seven points and a group win, or draw, which would put the team at five points, would put them out of reach of the other two teams, no matter the result of Ghana vs. Portugal. If the U.S. loses, that is where goal differential comes into play.
Because Portugal is currently at -4, a Portugal win and a U.S. loss where the combined differential doesn't move to zero would send America through. If the differential winds up at a tie, a highly unlikely event, the next tiebreaker goes to goals scored. In that scenario, Portugal would have likely scored a bunch of goals against Ghana, and that would presumably be bad for the U.S.
If the U.S. loses, and Ghana defeats Portugal, the African nation might once again knock America out of the World Cup, albeit a bit more indirectly than usual. Because Ghana is only two goals behind America in differential, a 2-0 Ghana win over Portugal and a 1-0 U.S. loss to Germany would send Ghana through.
It is certainly disappointing that the Americans couldn't clinch a top two slot on Sunday evening, but they are still very much favorites to go through to the round of 16. The U.S. still controls its own destiny, and any positive result against Germany is a win for America. Even with a loss, the U.S. still has a very good chance to advance, with a bit of help from Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal.