The feeling of pandemonium quickly turned to angst before ending in agony for United States soccer fans Sunday as the Men’s National Team saw a 2-1 lead against Portugal disappear on the final play of the game.
The victory would have secured the Americans a place in the Round of 16, but now the U.S. must prepare for a do-or-possibly-die matchup with Germany on Thursday.
Fortunately for the U.S., the draw against Portugal wasn’t the end-all be-all — not by any means. In fact, leading up to the match, a draw was more than welcomed. It just goes to show how far the sport has come in America, where a come-from-behind draw against the No. 4 ranked team in the world is viewed as a disappointment.
Sunday’s result is in the rear-view mirror, however. All eyes are now on Germany. The U.S. controls their own destiny — the scenario can be as easy or mind-boggling as the Americans see fit.
The easiest? Win and you’re in. The Americans could also draw with Germany and see themselves through. However, the difference between a win and a draw is staggering in terms of a potential knockout round opponent. If the U.S. team beats Germany, they’ll win Group G and face off against Group H’s runner-up — likely Algeria. A tie would pit the U.S. against the winner of Group H — likely Belgium.
A loss to Germany will leave the Americans’ fate up to the result of Ghana and Portugal. If those two teams draw, the Americans will advance. For Ghana to advance, they’ll need to beat Portugal with a better goal differential than the U.S. (Ghana currently sits at -1 with the U.S. at +1). Portugal’s path is more of an uphill battle since its goal differential is currently -4.
If two teams are tied on points and goal differential after Thursday’s games, a series of tiebreakers could be applied, including the possibility of FIFA drawing lots. Yes, lots.
Nobody who bleeds red, white and blue wants to leave the team’s fate to chance though, so the two biggest questions remaining are: Can we beat Germany? And if so, how?
The good news? The U.S. can absolutely beat Germany, but it won’t be easy. The Germans looked poised to mow down the rest of the group after dismantling Portugal in their opening-round match, but a 2-2 draw against Ghana has many calling Germany human again.
Neither side will likely be interested in an up-tempo match. Germany too is playing to stay alive, so expect to see a lot of back-and-fourth possession. For the U.S. team to break through, they’ll need to dictate the pace of the match early and force Germany to chase. If the Americans are successful in doing so, the German team has shown that they’re susceptible to getting out of position and giving up a goal or two.
Anticipated U.S. starting XI vs. Germany (4-5-1):
Howard; Johnson, Brooks, Besler, Beasley; Beckerman, Jones, Bradley, Bedoya, Zusi; Dempsey.