Team USA controls its own World Cup destiny

(USA Today) The United States will play one of its most anticipated games in history Sunday night against Portugal, and after a thrilling win against Ghana, a result against Cristiano Ronaldo's squad would send the Americans out of the Group of Death and into the Round of 16.

With two games left to play, the United States could still finish anywhere from first to fourth, so we've compiled all the possibilities.

Let's start with the basics. Two teams will advance from Group G to the knockout stage of the World Cup. If teams finish the group stage tied on points, the first tiebreaker is goal difference. As of Sunday morning, all four teams are still alive, but the United States controls its own destiny.

With one game played, the United States is second in the group with three points, thanks to a win against Ghana. Germany leads the group with four points, but has already played twice.

Ghana sits in third with one point and two games played, while Portugal has zero points from a loss against Germany.

The only team that can advance Sunday is the United States, and the only team that can be eliminated is Portugal.

With a win against Portugal, the United States would clinch a spot in the knockout round. The team's third game against Germany would be to determine seeding in Group G.

Germany's 2-2 draw with Ghana Saturday means the rest of the possibilities get a little complicated. If the United States ties Portugal, the Americans still control their own destiny. In that scenario, a win or a draw against Germany in the third game would send the U.S. through, but it could even advance with a loss to Germany.

If the United States ties Portugal, then either Ghana or Portugal could finish the group with a maximum of four points (those two countries meet June 26th). If the United States loses to Germany and also finishes with four points, then the Americans would have to rely on goal difference. As of right now, the U.S. have a +1 goal difference, two better than Ghana's -1 and five better than Portugal's -4. Assuming the U.S. ties Portugal , the goal difference wouldn't change, so the U.S. would be hoping that Portugal beats Ghana by a small margin, while also not giving up too many goals to Germany.

If the United States loses to Portugal, provided that it isn't by a huge enough margin to erase Portugal's goal-difference woes, the U.S. could still advance with a win over Germany. A draw against Germany in the final game would mean that if Portugal beat Ghana, the U.S. would be eliminated. If Ghana wins or if the two teams draw and the United States earns a point against Germany, the group would be decided on goal difference.

The United States would be eliminated if it loses to Portugal and Germany.

Now, on to matters of seeding. If the United States beats Portugal, only Germany and the United States could advance, and the two teams would duel in the third game to see which team finishes top of the group. The top team in Group G plays the second-best team in Group H, and the second-best team in Group G plays the top team in Group H. Group H teams play their second games Sunday, so it's a little too early to call, but Belgium are the heavy favorites to finish top of the group. South Korea, Russia and Algeria are all still alive, but the second spot in the group will likely come down to South Korea or Russia, who battled to a 1-1 draw in their opener. The United States would very much like to avoid Belgium, so a result against Portugal and Germany is crucial.


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