Ghana and Germany put on a tremendous show Saturday afternoon, but their 2-2 tie throws Group G into a state of chaos. Thankfully, ASN's Blake Thomsen is here to walk you through the many scenarios.
GERMANY AND GHANA
June 21, 2014
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delivered one of the most entertaining games of one of the most entertaining World Cups on Saturday afternoon in Fortaleza.
After Mario Gotze opened the scoring early in the second half, Ghana hit back through Andre Ayew and Asamoah Gyan before Miroslav Klose equalized in the 71st minute. Despite numerous chances for both sides in the last 20 minutes, neither team was able to find a winner and the match ended 2-2.
Along with providing considerable thrills and chills, the match also carried enormous significance for the U.S. ahead of its showdown with Portugal. Here's what the Ghana-Germany thriller means for the U.S.
1. The Yanks’ win over Ghana was massive
Given Ghana’s excellent showing against Germany, the U.S.’s win now looks even more impressive than it did on Monday. Ghana is a very good team, and the U.S. performed incredibly well to come away with three points.
Some may be tempted to say Ghana merely “played poorly” against the U.S., but doing so would wrongly discredit the Yanks’ sound tactical plan. Ghana is superb in the open field—as it proved against Germany—and the U.S. deserves immense credit for shutting down Ghana’s counters and staying compact enough to make sure Ghana did not have space in the final third.
2. Germany has some serious weaknesses
Portugal played right into Germany’s hands by carrying little threat on the counter and having a player sent off in the first half. The 4-0 score line made Germany look like World Cup favorites, but Ghana brought Germany back to earth by revealing some of the Germans’ deficiencies.
The German attack still looked strong, but questions must be asked about its defense. Germany leaves abundant space on the counter, as Ghana repeatedly showed, best seen in Gyan’s fine counterattacking goal. Also, Germany plays a very high line for a team that has a slow back four (all four of today’s starters are center backs by trade). Joachim Low looked to address this problem by bringing on more natural fullback Shkodran Mustafi at half, but he was out-jumped on Ghana’s first goal, leaving Low with an interesting conundrum.
All of this is merely to say that Germany is not invincible—clearly—and its questionable defense is the primary reason why.
3. The U.S. controls its destiny
Incredibly, when Ghana was leading 2-1 with just 20 minutes to go, there was a realistic scenario that could have seen the U.S. eliminated in the group stage even with a win over Portugal. If the goal differential went against the U.S., a Ghana win over Portugal and a U.S. loss to Germany on June 26 would have seen the U.S. heading home early.
Klose’s equalizer, however, means that the U.S. goes into the Portugal game with a simple equation in mind—win, and you’re in.
4. Group G will have a crazy finish
Had Germany won, Ghana would have been effectively eliminated, leaving the U.S., Portugal, and Germany to fight it out for the two qualification places. Now, all four teams are still very much alive. Let’s look at the potential scenarios from a U.S. perspective, with hypotheticals considered for each possible U.S. result against Portugal. OK, let's get to the scenarios ahead of Sunday's match.
If the U.S. beats Portugal...
The Yanks are into the knockout stage, needing just a draw against Germany to win the group. A loss to Germany would leave the U.S. in second place. Whether that means a date with Belgium or somebody else remains to be seen in this oh-so-wacky 2014 World Cup.
If the U.S. ties Portugal...
Now things start to get interesting. A draw would leave the U.S. with four points and a +1 goal differential. The Yanks would be tied on points with Germany but behind on goal differential. The Americans would still be ahead of Portugal—one point, -4 goal differential—and Ghana—one point, -1 goal differential.
That would set up some serious drama on June 26, the final day of the group. We’ll run through the U.S. win/loss/draw scenarios (assuming a draw against Portugal).
If the U.S. beats Germany: The U.S. is through as group winners.
If the U.S. draws Germany: The U.S. is through as the second-place team, with Germany winning the group on goal differential.
If the U.S. loses to Germany: Here’s where all of the scenarios come into play. If the U.S. loses by one goal, Ghana would only need to beat Portugal by one to tie the U.S. on goal differential. Then it would come down to goals scored, which we won’t speculate on here, though Ghana’s 2-2 draw against Germany was far more helpful than a 0-0. (Similarly, a 5-5 U.S. draw with Portugal would be far preferable than a 0-0, etc). Still assuming a U.S. loss by one, Portugal would need to win by four to match the U.S., and then goals scored would again be the tiebreaker.
Also: If the U.S. loses to Germany by two or more, a Ghana win of any score line would see the Black Stars progress as the second-place team. Assuming the U.S. lost by exactly two, Portugal would be a little closer, and would need to win by three to progress. That scenario continues all the way until a U.S. loss by four. If the U.S. loses by three, Portugal needs to win by two. If the U.S. loses by four or more, Portugal just needs any win.
If the U.S. loses to Portugal...
This brings on more madness. We’ll now run through the U.S. win/loss/draw scenarios assuming a loss against Portugal.
If the U.S. beats Germany: The U.S. still progress as group winners, unless Portugal catches the Yanks on goal differential with a win over Ghana. This would be more likely if Portugal beats the U.S. by two or more. At worst, though, the U.S. is guaranteed progression with a win against Germany.
If the U.S. draws Germany: Considering we don’t know what the U.S.’s losing score to Portugal would be, we won’t run through all of the goal differential scenarios, but we can infer a few things. A win for Ghana would likely see the Black Stars through on goal differential. A Portugal win would see them through as group winners. A draw between Ghana and Portugal would leave the U.S. tied with Portugal and possibly through on goal differential. My brain hurts. Does yours?
If the U.S. loses to Germany: The U.S. will be automatically eliminated (Ghana will enter with one point and Portugal with three when the two teams square off on June 26, so one team would have to leave the game with four or more points).
That’s a lot to keep up with, but it’s worth considering in advance of the U.S.’s game against Portugal. Of course, the U.S. can keep things quite simple with a win over Portugal. A draw would leave the Yanks in good shape, but Ghana’s draw against Germany was not ideal as it kept Ghana alive and sporting a goal differential of just -1.
How does all of this make you feel about the U.S.’s qualification chances? Should the U.S. approach the Portugal game looking for just a draw, or does it need to go after all three points? Let us know in the comments section, and please resist the urge to call all of this speculation meaningless. It's the World Cup, dammit!
Blake Thomsen is an ASN contributing editor. Follow him on Twitter and rattle his cage there or in the Comments here.