SAO PAULO – Instead of taking a breather, the U.S. created a World Cup math puzzle for its fans back in America.
Just 30 seconds from clinching advancement with a game to spare, the U.S. conceded a stoppage-time goal that left it with a 2-2 draw against Portugal Sunday. With four points, the Americans may need at least a tie from their Group G finale against three-time champion Germany to advance to the knockout stage.
“Now we have no choice but to regroup, get ourselves ready for another big game on Thursday,” midfielder Michael Bradley said.
Germany leads the group with four points after routing Portugal 4-0 and tying Ghana 2-2. The U.S., which opened with a 2-1 victory over Ghana, also has four points and trails on goal difference. Ghana and Portugal have one point each.
The U.S. would advance to the knockout stage of consecutive World Cups for the first time with a win or a tie against the Germans, or a draw between Ghana and Portugal in a match played simultaneously. If there’s a winner in the other game, the Americans also could advance with four points on a tiebreaker: goal difference, followed by total goals, head-to-head points, head-to-head goal difference and head-to-head goals. If a tie still isn’t resolved, there would be a drawing of lots.
“Had we been down 2-1 and we came back, we’d be flying high right now,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “It’s the Group of Death. Most people counted us out. So, it’s no problem. We’re going to the last game with a chance.”
The U.S. arrived back at its base hotel in Sao Paulo at about 5 a.m. Monday after a four-hour flight from the match in the steamy Amazon rainforest capital of Manaus. The starters were given the day off, and the reserves trained in the late afternoon at Sao Paulo Futebol Clube.
After Tuesday’s training session, the team makes the three-hour-plus flight to the northeast beach city of Recife. While the Americans have just three days off between matches, Germany has four.
“There’s a lot of things you can’t control. That’s a quirk of the schedule,” U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said. “It’s a quirk of the schedule that we’ve got more travel than anybody else in the first round, but we had less than everyone else in the first round in South Africa. So those things balance out.”
The Group G winner likely will play Algeria, Russia or South Korea, whichever finishes second in Group H. The second-place team in Group G probably will face Group H leader Belgium, which is 2-0.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann did not talk to reporters Monday but spoke with the USSF in an interview for its website.
“We want to beat Germany. We want to be first in our group, so we’re not thinking about a tie,” he said.
Klinsmann starred for West Germany’s team that won the 1990 World Cup and coached Germany to third place in 2006. Joachim Loew, Germany’s current coach, was Klinsmann’s assistant eight years ago.
Because both nations would advance in the event of a draw, some thought back to the 1982 World Cup in Spain, where West Germany needed a one- or two-goal win over Austria to assure both nations of advancement and eliminate Algeria. Horst Hrubesch scored for the West Germans 10 minutes in, and players spent much of the rest of the evening passing to their teammates without threatening the opposing goal. West Germany won 1-0, and ever since FIFA has scheduled group finales for simultaneous kickoffs.
“You’re talking about a game that is decades away that is only part of the Germany history and not the United States,” Klinsmann said. “The United States is known to give everything they have in every single game. … We have that fighting spirit. We have that energy and that determination to do well in every single game.”