The United States was less than a minute away from starting 2-0 in group play and clinching a spot in the Round of 16 of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but a Silvestre Varela header changed everything as the USMNT drew with Portugal, 2-2.
Even with the draw, the Americans still control their own destiny. Germany and the U.S. stand atop Group G with four points, while Portugal and Ghana are in the cellar with one point apiece.
Here are four possible knockout round-clinching scenarios for the U.S. as it prepares to play its final group-stage game against Germany on Thursday.
1. Beat Germany
2. Tie Germany
3. Lose to Germany and Ghana-Portugal draw.
4. Lose to Germany and win tiebreaker against the winner of Ghana and Portugal.
The first three scenarios are straightforward. The fourth one involves the ever-confusing tiebreakers.
The first tiebreaker is goal differential. Portugal currently has a minus-4 goal differential, Ghana is at minus-1 and the U.S. is at plus-1.
It’s difficult and foolish to predict what happens, but in case goal differential doesn’t settle the tie, here are the following tiebreakers:
1) number of goals scored
3) drawing of lots by FIFA
There is a very, very small chance that the Portugal and United States tiebreaker could be decided by drawing of lots. The two teams would have to be tied in points, goal differential and goals scored.
It would be an ugly way to decide who advances, but it is in the realm of possibilities.
Let’s just hope that an incredible World Cup isn’t marred by a coin toss that determines who advances to the knockout stage.