By Jon Meoli
The Baltimore Sun
7:56 AM EDT, June 26, 2014
Yesterday in one sentence: Argentina and Nigeria played Arena Football defense and Ecuador and France threw the kitchen sink at each other while Switzerland improbably got its act together to advance to the last 16.
What’s on tap: United States vs. Germany, noon, ESPN; Portugal vs. Ghana, noon, ESPN2; Algeria vs. Russia, 4 p.m., ESPN2; Belgium vs. South Korea, 4 p.m., ESPN.
What you’ll see: I cannot believe this is what I asked for. Two wins and guaranteed advancing would have been nice, of course. But every American fan would have taken four points from the Ghana and Portugal matches with a chance to advance against Germany, and the main consequence of the United States’ last-second draw with Portugal on Sunday is that this is going to be a wild few hours of soccer that I wish could have been avoided.
All four teams in Group G can advance, and to be honest, every possibility is on the table. A draw would send both America and Germany into the Round of 16, and render what will likely be a thrilling Ghana-Portugal match (that no one will watch) irrelevant. A win from either sends them through, and it’s conceivable that unless it’s a blowout either way, the loser could go through as well.
I don’t think either team sits back and plays for a draw, though. Germany’s relentless attack means it will likely be pressing forward even when not meaning to, and the United States’ formation against Portugal (the first Jozy Altidore-less match of the World Cup) indicates a more defensive approach in the midfield. Where the United States could have an advantage, ironically, is attacking the German left and right backs—a position made weaker by Fabian Johnson playing for America instead of Germany. I believe this will be an unbearably tense 90 minutes, and if the Portugal draw in Manaus didn’t take too much out of the U.S., it will be a late win if it’s a win at all.
There’s also plenty at stake in the corresponding Group G match, as neither team Brasilia will know the result in Recife. Portugal has a much deeper goal-differential hole to dig out of after its 4-0 loss to Germany, but a Portugal rout and a bad U.S. loss could send Cristiano Ronaldo and company through. Ghana has more to gain with a win, given its minus-one goal differential and the fact that it has produced the most consistently strong performances in the entire group. I’m afraid Ghana will run all over a tired Portugal side and put real pressure on the United States to get a result against the Germans.
After the United States’ lot is settled, one of the more boring groups will finish out the group stages. Belgium is already through to the Round of 16, and can win the group with a point against South Korea. The winner of the Algeria-Russia match will also go through, and likely face the winner of Group G.
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