How the US Soccer Team Can Advance to the Round of 16
Boy, how the tide has changed since the end of the first half of the USA-Slovenia match.
Down by two goals, it appeared that USA's World Cup was over—and all too soon. The excitement of the match that occurred only a week earlier against England was still fresh on the minds of most Americans.
Oddsmakers had placed even money on the USA defeating Slovenia, and with presumably their most difficult match of the group stage over with, advancing to the knockout stage seemed to be a likely scenario for the Americans.
But Slovenia had other plans in mind.
The media scoffed at Slovenian midfielder Andrej Komac when he had guaranteed a victory over the US squad earlier in the week, but after one half and two Slovenian goals, it appeared that the tiny nation of only 2,000,000 people was having the last laugh.
One remarkable comeback later, and it now appears that the US has a tremendous chance of advancing to the round of 16 and possibly further. Thanks to a gutsy second half, in which the United States scored three goals, but had only two of them counted in their favor due to horrible officiating, the USA is still alive.
If that performance wasn't enough, England's calamity against Algeria later in the day set up the group quite favorably for the Americans.
At the end of two matches, the standings in Group C are as follows:
Slovenia: 4 points, +1, 3 goals for
USA: 2 points, 0 (even), 3 goals for
England: 2 points, 0 (even), 1 goal for
Algeria: 1 point, -1, 0 goals scored
If the USA defeats Algeria in their final match of the group stage, the USA will advance.
If the USA loses to Algeria in their final match of the group, the USA will be eliminated.
If the USA ties Algeria, things get interesting: In this scenario, the USA will advance if Slovenia defeats England or if England and Slovenia tie, and England finishes with fewer total goals. If the USA were to tie Algeria, and England were to defeat Slovenia, the USA would not advance.
So in essence, all the USA has to do to advance is defeat a team less talented. Algeria's tie against England came not so much because of the stout defense displayed by the Algerians, but more so because of the completely uninspired play by the English.
By all accounts, most would agree that if the USA cannot defeat an Algerian team whose own coach, according to Sports Illustrated, used the phrase "learning curve" four times in a 10-minute span while describing his team, the Americans don't deserve to advance in this tournament—and they won't.
Looking beyond Group C and to the Round of 16
Because of Serbia's upset of Germany, it's possible that the real winner in Group C will be the team that finishes second.
The winner of Group C will be set to face the second place team in Group D (which is comprised of Serbia, Ghana, Australia, and Germany), and after Serbia's shocking win this morning, there's a chance that the much feared Germans may finish second in their group or worse.
If Ghana can defeat Australia, which is a likely outcome, then tie Germany, the Ghanaians will win Group D, and thus face the second place team in Group C. In this scenario, if Serbia were to defeat Australia, they too would advance and the Germans would be eliminated.
Ghana, who is ranked 32nd in the world by FIFA, two spots below Algeria, is in the driver's seat of Group D right now. They are set to play an Australian team that looked inept against the Germans, losing 4-0, and then a German team that was already hampered by injuries, and now must play without their best forward in Miroslav Klose, who was delivered a questionable red card against Serbia.
If the Ghanaians play well, and they do have the benefit of home continent advantage, it's possible that they could present a welcome matchup for whichever team finishes second in Group C. This could also possibly result in a very difficult game against Germany for whichever team ultimately wins the group.
But for now, it's all speculation, and after two matches, the recipe for advancing in this World Cup is still the same for all the teams in groups C and D: win.