Beating Portugal Would Guarantee U.S. Advancing

Going into Sunday’s game against Portugal, the U.S. is in a good position: if the Americans win, they’ll be assured a spot in the World Cup’s Round of 16.

As ESPN statistics blog FiveThirtyEight noted, Germany’s draw against Ghana Saturday held good and bad news for the U.S.: the draw made it more likely that the U.S. could win the whole group, but it made it slightly less likely that the U.S. would advance at all.

FORTALEZA, BRAZIL – JUNE 21: Asamoah Gyan of Ghana celebrates scoring his team’s second goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group G match between Germany and Ghana at Castelao on June 21, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil. Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Ghana’s draw against the powerful German team, coming on the heels of a hotly-contested loss to the U.S., kept the African team competitive in the tournament.

(FromL) US goalkeeper Tim Howard, US forward Clint Dempsey and US midfielder Graham Zusi celebrate at the end of a Group G football match between Ghana and US at the Dunas Arena in Natal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 16, 2014. Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

“[Ghana’s draw] increases the chance that the U.S. will finish first in Group G —that probability is now 20 percent, compared with 11 percent before the match,” wrote FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver. “However, it slightly reduces the Americans’ overall chances of advancing. Those odds are down to 64 percent from 69 percent before.”

The American position is far from dire — so long as the U.S. Men’s National Team ties the Portuguese, the team has a decent shot at advancing.

But should the Americans lose, they’ll need to beat or tie Germany, the #2-ranked team in the world, according to FIFA’s rankings.

(To be fair, Spain is FIFA’s #1-ranked team, and the Spanish have already been booted from the tournament, which goes to show that rankings aren’t everything.)

Tying Germany is possible, as Ghana showed, but would be tough going — far better for the U.S. to pick up a W Sunday and be assured of advancing.

The U.S.-Portugal match is scheduled for 6 p.m. EST on ESPN.

Follow Zach Noble (@thezachnoble) on Twitter