Monday marked the fifth day of 2014 World Cup group play in Brazil, and it fostered a number of interesting developments.
Germany and Portugal were supposed to have a hotly competitive match in the first of Monday's three fixtures. However, the Germans emerged with a dominant 4-0 victory over their powerful adversaries, as Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates were dealt a crushing blow.
Here is a look at the updated group standings and scores, followed by more information on the USA's dramatic 2-1 win over Ghana and the rather bland 0-0 draw between Nigeria and Iran:
Thomas Mueller is in the driver's seat for the Golden Boot as the tournament's top scorer, since he netted a hat-trick for Germany to lead the resounding win.
A big reason why Portugal was beaten so handily, though, was because Mueller drew a red card from Portugal defender Pepe, who head-butted the German star. The Daily Telegraph's Paul Hayward weighed in on the situation:
Anger at Muller overdone? He wasn't asking for red when he sat probing his mouth. Didn't pretend to be near death when butted. Pepe's fault.— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) June 16, 2014
Had Portugal been at full strength, perhaps the outcome would have been closer, if not totally different. ESPN's Paul Carr noted the impact Germany's win had on the projected Group G results:
Updated Soccer Power Index odds to advance: Germany 98%, #USMNT 37% (up from 33%), Ghana 36%, Portugal 29%.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) June 16, 2014
The next contest was far less entertaining, as Iran and Nigeria played to the World Cup's first draw.
Neither side scored, and while it was a rather bland display on the pitch, both clubs could have fared worse. At least they have started with a point apiece in Group F.
In the finale, the United States sought to capitalize on the massive goal differential hole Portugal was in and try to get three points versus Ghana. Suddenly it seems the Americans have a shot at advancing through Group G and into the knockout stage.
Both USA goals were sensational and historic to a significant degree. Clint Dempsey got his side on the board less than one minute into the match.
Then, an unlikely hero emerged for the U.S. in substitute John Brooks, whose header in the 86th minute was an effective, swift counter to Ghana's equalizer just minutes before:
Brooks was the first U.S. substitute ever to score in the World Cup, and ESPN Stats & Info added more context to his winner:
A visual look at the huge swing in win probability after the late goal by John Brooks pic.twitter.com/80ElvymH7v— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 17, 2014
USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann praised Brooks afterward, per the team's official Twitter account:
Ghana had been the USA's nemesis in the World Cup in the past two years, but ESPN's Numbers Never Lie offered an optimistic before-the-game take based on tournament history:
Good news for US. No team has EVER defeated a single opponent in 3 straight World Cups. (Ghana beat #usmnt in 2006 & 2010)— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) June 16, 2014
Indeed, that number didn't lie, as it turned out to be an accurate forecast of what was to come.
Portugal will be hard-pressed to dig out of its big deficit in the next match against a USA team that has to be extremely confident in getting over the hump against Ghana, while Germany is in the driver's seat to win the group.
Tuesday's action will see the hosts, Brazil, try to get another three points against Mexico in a Group A showdown. Group H's opening matches will be sandwiched around Brazil's, as Belgium opens against Algeria and Russia takes on the Korea Republic to cap off Day 6.
Although the friendly crowd will erupt as Brazil seeks its second win in a row, it will be hard to top the drama witnessed in the first and final matches on Monday. Between Germany's dominance and the USA's stunning salvage of three points, the World Cup continues its high-scoring, thrilling beginning.