World Cup: How can the USA advance to knockout round?


The United States looked all set to get a win against Portugal after Clint Dempsey scored a go-ahead goal in the 81st minute. That win would’ve advanced the Americans to the knockout round of the World Cup and eliminated Portugal in the process.

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In the final moments of stoppage time, a Cristiano Ronaldo cross into the box found Silvestre Varela, who headed it past American goal keeper Tim Howard for the game-tying goal. The whistle blew shortly after and the Portuguese team stole two points from the Americans.

That means the Americans haven’t clinched a spot in the World Cup, and playing Germany in their final game sets up a tough match to try and get into the “round of 16.” Germany is in first place with four points, and the United States is in second with four points but behind on goal differential. Ghana and Portugal round out the group with one-point a piece.

So there are three scenarios where the Americans will advance to the knockout rounds.

  • Win/draw against Germany
  • USA loss and draw between Portugal and Ghana
  • USA loss an win tie breaker against Portugal-Ghana

The tie breaker is goal differential, depending on how many goals the Americans would potentially lose by and how many either Portugal or Ghana won by could create a wide array of potential scenarios. If the United States lost by one goal for instance, Portugal would need to win by five goals to advance. Ghana winning by just a goal and the Americans losing by any amount creates a scary situation.

For a full breakdown of the situations, check out this graphic below.

It will be a stressful game nonetheless.

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Paul Carr of ESPN