All the United States needs is a draw.
Coming into the 2014 World Cup, the Americans were seen as underdogs in Group G, or more notoriously known as the "Group of Death."
After all, Germany has long been a world football juggernaut, Portugal is comprised of some of the world's best players and Ghana has given the United States fits in previous matchups.
Well, after a thrilling 2-1 victory over Ghana, and a last-second 2-2 draw against Portugal, the United States faces Germany on Thursday with the improbable chance to advance to the knockout rounds for the second consecutive World Cup.
Although, it won't be easy. Here's a look at the current group standings:
|2014 World Cup: Group G Standings|
So, as we impatiently await this deeply important contest, let's take a look at the top storylines to watch when these two teams take the field.
Jozy Altidore out for United States
Striker Jozy Altidore is set to miss his second consecutive game after suffering a hamstring injury during the United States' win against Ghana, according to Leander Schaerlaeckens of Fox Sports.
Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann spoke of the injury during a press conference, per Schaerlaeckens:
Jozy is recovering really well. He's doing a tremendous job there. Our medical staff is on top of it. This game comes still too early for him.
But we're working on him, we'll get him back in this tournament as we said. So once this game hopefully is done successfully, we'll have a good chance to have him back there in the team.
With Altidore missing more time, the United States must shuffle its lineup once again.
Against Portugal, Clint Dempsey served as the team's lone striker. Although Dempsey was rather successful, he may find difficulty duplicating his performance against Germany's stout defenders without Altidore by his side.
No Intentional Draw Forthcoming
FIFA appears to be in a bit of a pickle given the circumstances of Thursday's match between these two countries.
Both Germany and the United States simply need a draw to advance to the knockout rounds of the tournament. This is not a desired scenario for FIFA after the infamous 1982 contest between West Germany and Austria.
Here's a look back at the dreadful match:
Luckily, both teams have already promised there will be no deals made prior to Thursday's contest.
After the United States 2-2 draw with Portugal, Klinsmann responded to a question regarding his team's situation against Germany during a press conference, per The Associated Press, via USA Today:
I don't think that we are made for draws, really, except if it happens like tonight—two late goals, last seconds. I think both teams go into this game and they want to win the group.
You're talking about a game (in Gijon) that is decades away that is only part of the Germany history and not the United States. 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.
German defender Mats Hummels shared his thoughts as well: "It would be highly unsportsmanlike and unfair to other teams if anyone on the pitch had such thoughts."
Chances to Advance
Just in case you're a bit unfamiliar with the World Cup scoring, let's take a look at the different scenarios for each Group G team to advance.
First, here's a quick refresher of the group's standings, courtesy of ESPN:
It's easy for the United States; a win against Germany would propel the team to the knockout stages after finishing in first place with seven points. This is the dream scenario for the Americans. Of course, the same goes for Germany.
If the United States and Germany should draw, both teams would advance with five points each. Germany would finish in first place due to the goal differential.
The United States and Germany can each advance with a loss if Ghana and Portugal draw.
There's also a chance for the Americans to advance should they lose and either Ghana or Portugal win.
In this case, the tiebreaker would come down to goal differential. Currently, the United States has a two-goal lead over Ghana and five-goal lead over Portugal.
If Ghana wins by one goal, and the United States loses by one goal, they will be tied in differential, and the Americans' would advance due to their head-to-head victory.
Should Portugal win and the United States lose, the same scenario applies, but Portugal would have to overcome a far greater goal differential.
Here's a rather simple overview on each team's percent chance to advance, courtesy of a tweet from ESPN's Paul Carr:
Hang on to your hats, it's going to be a wild ride on Thursday.
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