After the surprise draw today between Germany and Ghana, I wanted to take a look at this group closer. There are 3 games remaining in the group: USA-POR, POR-GHA and USA-GER. Of those 3 games, I believe there's only one game with a high probability result. Sorry to my American readership, but I don't see the U.S. taking points from Germany. This exercise is based on the assumption Germany will beat the U.S.
That would mean Germany finish the group with 7 points and take the top spot. Second place is wide open though and I wanted to look at the potential finishes from those remaining 2 games. See below for a breakdown of the potential scenarios as I see them:
The top bar are potential scenarios for the USA/POR contest. The left bar are for POR-GHA.
Right off the top, if the U.S. wins tomorrow against Portugal they will clinch advancement and eliminate Portugal in the process. It would be a likely death sentence for Ghana as well although mathematically they would have a shot to catch Germany.
Ghana needs a win in their final against Portugal. Portugal need to get at least 4 points in their least 2 games. Both need help.
The scenarios highlighted in red are the interesting ones that will require tiebreakers to figure out. All assume the U.S. tie Portugal tomorrow and the U.S. finish on 4 points. A 4-point American squad means both Ghana and Portugal can catch the U.S. depending on their result in their final match against each other. Here are the 4 potential scenarios for that GHA-POR game.
1) Ghana defeats Portugal by 2+ goals. Ghana would advance with the goal differential tiebreaker against the U.S.
2) Ghana defeats Portugal by 1 goal. This gets dicey. Ghana are 2 goals behind the U.S. right now in goal differential. At the very minimum, if this scenario occurs, Ghana and the U.S. would be tied on goal differential. This is assuming Germany beats the U.S. by 1 goal. The tiebreaker would then become goals for. Ghana holds the current advantage but the U.S. has a game in hand. U.S. fans should want as many goals as possible in their 2 remaining games as this is a likely scenario.
3) Ghana ties Portugal and the U.S. advances on points.
4) Portugal defeats Ghana and ties the U.S. on 4 points. Goal differential and goals for potentially come in to play again. There's a 5-goal swing that needs to occur though so Portugal need a blowout win and a big German win.
U.S. fans seem pretty optimistic about tomorrow against Portugal. Portugal are without Hugo Almeida and Fabio Coentrao to injury, Pepe to suspension, and Cristiano Ronaldo is on a bad knee. Rui Patricio is also questionable in goal. There is never going to be a better time to defeat this Portugal team. It's a mistake though to underestimate this Portugal team. They were embarrassed by Germany and will be out for blood. They are still very dangerous to the U.S. squad.
My guess is a draw for the U.S. and Portugal. The U.S. isn't overly potent up front (especially with Altidore) out and are not the type of team to take advantage of all the absences in the back for Portugal.
That makes the Ghana-Portugal game the decider. I may reevaluate this choice based on tomorrow's performance but I would tip Ghana to beat Portugal, likely by 1 goal. Goals may be hard to come by for the U.S. in their remaining games. Based on everything if you put a gun to my head right now, I think Ghana would be the second team to advance in this group.
Just my two cents. The U.S. can make all of this irrelevant if they win tomorrow. I wouldn't call that outcome likely, but it wouldn't be shocking either.