The United States’ World Cup chances took a turn for the better on Monday — and they didn’t even have to take the field.

While the U.S. team doesn’t take the pitch until Monday evening, an incident in the Germany-Portugal game led to one of Portugal’s star players being ejected and banned from his team’s next game. That next game? Saturday versus the United States.

Just 36 minutes into the match, Portuguese star Pepe (he’s one of those that only needs a single name) was battling for the ball with Germany’s Thomas Muller. Pepe stuck out his arm, grazing Muller in the face. As happens in soccer, Muller went down, clutching his face as if his nose and mouth had just been ripped from his frontal lobe. Pepe objected to the antics, approached Muller as he sat on the field and then head-butted him.

Video of Pepe head butting Thomas Muller and getting a red card

Germany’s Thomas Mueller, left, is challenged by Portugal’s Pepe during the group G World Cup soccer match between Germany and Portugal at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Video of Pepe head butting Thomas Muller and getting a red card

Germany’s Thomas Mueller, right, holds his face after making contact with Portugal’s Pepe, left, during the group G World Cup soccer match between Germany and Portugal at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Francois Marit, pool) AP Photo/Francois Marit, pool 

Video of Pepe head butting Thomas Muller and getting a red card

Portugal’s Pepe, left, puts his head on Germany’s Thomas Mueller during the group G World Cup soccer match between Germany and Portugal at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014. Pepe was red carded after this. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Video of Pepe head butting Thomas Muller and getting a red card

Portugal’s Pepe , left, puts his head on Germany’s Thomas Mueller during the group G World Cup soccer match between Germany and Portugal at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014. Pepe was red carded after this. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Muller immediately fought through his pain and sprang from the ground to confront Pepe, who was quickly given a red card from the official and sent off the field.

Video of Pepe head butting Thomas Muller and getting a red card

Referee Milorad Mazic from Serbia shows a red card to Portugal’s Pepe after a scuffle with Germany’s Thomas Mueller, right, as Portugal goalkeeper Eduardo, center, gestures during the group G World Cup soccer match between Germany and Portugal at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil, Monday, June 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Here’s how it unfolded (note the announcers explaining Pepe has a history of losing his temper):

Both Germany and Portugal are in the same group with the United States. And it’s widely held that while the Americans have a legitimate shot at beating Ghana on Monday, their chances against Germany and Portugal are slim. With Pepe now out, those chances just got a lot better. And if they can notch two wins in group play, they’re well on their way to advancing in one of the world’s most popular tournaments.

 

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