Figuring Out USA’s World Cup Status Hurting Your Head? Don’t Worry, it’s EASY!!


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FIFA - German-Ghana

Ghana ties Germany and everyone freaks. Never fear, OJB will explain the implications to you.

[Note: Updates after the U.S.-Portugal game are in maroon.]

OK, Ghana tied Germany.  You weren’t expecting that.  You were living in the world where Germany was already into the knockout rounds and if the U.S. beat or tied Portugal on Sunday everything was all right and Ghana was out of the picture and if not then the U.S. would have to beat Germany next week so long as its point differential was better than Portugal’s.

Well, that world is gone.  The current point standings in Group G are: Germany with 4, U.S. with 3, Ghana with 1, Portugal with 0.  Here’s what happens now.

(1) Rules of Tiebreakers

The ranking of each team in each group shall be determined as follows:

a) greatest number of points obtained in all the group matches;

b) goal difference in the group matches;

c) greatest number of goals scored in the group matches.

If two or more teams are equal on the basis of the above three criteria, their ranking will be determined as follows:

d) greatest number of points obtained in the group matches between the teams concerned;

e) goal difference resulting from the group matches between the teams concerned;

f) greater number of goals scored in all group matches between the teams concerned;

g) drawing of lots by the FIFA Organising Committee.

I stand with those who see (e) and (f) as redundant with (d).  I also think that, before going to lots, the deciding factor should be who has taken the most corner kicks — which shows that they were attacking more.

(2) If the U.S. Beats Portugal

If the U.S. beats Portugal, then it makes the knockout rounds.  The scores going into the third round would be 6, 4, 1, 0, U.S. on top.  It is ranked #1 in Group G if it beats or ties Germany, and #2 if it loses.  If it loses, then it will have to beat (as things now stand, more or less) Belgium, Argentina, Netherlands, and Brazil for the title.

(3) If the U.S. Ties Portugal

If the U.S. ties Portugal, the standings are 4, 4, 1, 1.  The U.S. could then secure its trip to the knockout rounds with a win against Germany.  See above.  It could also advance with a tie against Germany — as could Germany.  (This could make for a dull game, if both play to tie.  Because Germany leads in both goal differential and total goals, it would get the #1 slot.)

But what happens if the U.S. ties Portugal and loses to Germany?  If Portugal and Ghana tie, both end up with 2 points and the U.S. would still advance.  But if either wins that game, it gets 4 points, and then we go to tiebreakers.  

Let’s say that Ghana beats Portugal next week.  The first criterion is goal differential; the U.S. is currently +1 and Ghana -1.  Under the “U.S. ties Portugal, then loses to Germany while Ghana beats Portugal” scenario, that goal differential would be made up at worst.  If either margin was 2 goals or more , Ghana advances.  If they’re both one-goal margins, then we move on to total goals.

[ORIGINAL PARAGRAPH: Ghana currently has a 1 goal advantage there going into the U.S.'s second game tomorrow.  It's possible that the U.S. could still win on total goals -- it's more likely, for example, if it ties Portugal 9 to 9 -- but not likely.  If the U.S. ties 0-0, and then Ghana wins 1-0 and the U.S. loses 3-2, they would also be knotted up for this tiebreaker.  If we move to head to head competition, then the U.S. wins based on its earlier victory.]

[REVISED PARAGRAPH AFTER 6/22 GAMES: The U.S. currently has a 1 goal advantage after the U.S.'s second game.  It's possible that the U.S. could still beat or match Ghana on total goals in this scenario -- for example, Germany beats it 2-1 while Ghana (respectively) wins 1-0 or 2-0.  If it's total goals, we move to head to head competition, and then the U.S. wins based on its earlier victory.]

[ADDITIONAL PARAGRAPH, initially omitted:]  If Portugal beats Ghana, then the first tiebreaker is goal differential — and here the U.S. has a +1 and Portugal a -4.  So, if the combined margin of a U.S. loss and Portugal win is less than 5, the U.S. advances.  If it’s more than 5, then Portugal advances.  If it’s exactly 5 — then it’s on to the total goals tiebreaker.  The U.S. has two more goals than Portugal.  However, if Portugal wins 3-0 and the U.S. loses 3-1, the U.S. the goal differential is made up but the total goals will be the same.  If that happens, then Portugal’s getting the tie against the U.S. means that, horror of horrors … we flip a coin!  Worse than free kicks!  (Note: IT SHOULD INSTEAD BE BASED ON THE TOTAL NUMBER OF CORNER KICKS IN ALL MATCHES, WHICH REWARDS AGGRESSIVENESS.  Grrrrrrrrr.)

(3) If the U.S. Loses to Portugal

If the U.S. loses to Portugal, the standings become 4, 3, 3, 1 — and the U.S. has plenty of ways to fail to qualify.

First, if the U.S. loses to Germany as well — game over, man.  Either Ghana or Portugal will necessarily get at least 4 points to the U.S.’s 3.

Second, if the U.S. beats Germany, then it necessarily advances.  Portugal could still catch it to get the #1 spot, but it is well behind in goal differential.  If it beats the U.S. by 1, then Portugal has to make up three goals to tie.  If it beats the U.S. by 2, it has to make up one goal, and so on.  If there’s a tie, then it would get the #1 rank based on head-to-head competition.

If it ties Germany, and Portugal beats Ghana, then Portugal advances as #1 with 6 points and Germany advances as #2 with 5.

If it ties Germany and Ghana beats Portugal, Germany advances with 5 points and the U.S. and Ghana go to tiebreakers.  The U.S. goal differential would be 0 if it lost to Portugal by 1.  Ghana’s winning would mean that it’s goal differential would be no less than 0.  If either is a two or more goal margin, Ghana wins.  As discussed above, it’s possible that the U.S. would still have more total goals than Ghana — but not likely.

If it ties Germany and Ghana and Portugal also tie, then Germany advances and the U.S. and Portugal go to tiebreakers.  Under this scenario, Portugal wins if it beats the U.S. by 6 or more goals tomorrow, matching it in goal differential.  If it beats the U.S. by 5 goals, then we move to the goals scored tiebreaker, where it would likely win as well (barring something like a 9-9 tie between U.S. and Germany.)

See — like I said, easy!  Things will be easiest if it beats Portugal, though, so let’s see that happen.

Now let’s make this our World Cup Open Thread!


About Greg Diamond

Worker's rights attorney now moving into "good governance" litigation. North Vice Chair of Democratic Party of Orange County and occasional candidate. Proud to be prolix. Unless otherwise specifically stated, his writings never speak for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level. He tries to either suppress or openly acknowledge his partisan, issue, ideological, and "good government" biases in most of his writing here. If you have a question about any particular writing, just ask him about it and (unless you are an pseudonymous troll) he will probably answer you at painful length. He lives in Brea but generally doesn't blog about it. A family member works as a campaign treasurer for Wendy Gabriella in AD-73; he doesn't directly profit from that relatively small compensation and it doesn't affect his coverage. He does advise some campaigns informally and without compensation, although in 2014 he may receive some compensation for campaign consulting and fundraising for the campaign of Jorge Lopez for Orange County Assessor.