Jun 23, 2014 2:25 AM by Richard Farley (NBC Sports)
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).
If the United States loses to Germany, the team 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.
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