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World Cup 2014: What are U.S.’s chances after Portugal tie?

BY Larisa Epatko  June 23, 2014 at 1:02 PM EDT
U.S. soccer fans watch Sunday's U.S.-Portugal match in Manaus, Brazil. Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images

U.S. soccer fans watch Sunday’s U.S.-Portugal match in Manaus, Brazil. Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images

After the U.S. soccer team’s unexpected June 16 win against Ghana — the team that had eliminated the United States in past World Cups — fans bedecked in red, white and blue chanted, “We want Portugal! We want Portugal!”

And it looked for a little while that the U.S. would beat Portugal in the steamy city of Manaus, Brazil, on Sunday. But a Portugal header into the U.S. goal in the final seconds of the match clinched the 2-2 draw.

Is there still hope for the U.S. team? We asked PRI’s The World’s editor/reporter and resident soccer buff William Troop for the lowdown.

How about that game against Portugal? What did you think?

That was really exciting and a cruel way to end the game for all of us Americans. It was actually one of the most exciting games of the tournament so far. Don’t love the result, but I loved the game.

Can the U.S. still make it to the next round?

Yes, I think so. They’ve shown — really more yesterday than in the first game — that they can play against a good team. Portugal had a tough time in their first game, but they’re still a top team. I think when it comes to playing Germany, which is a better team than Portugal but not an invincible team, the U.S. can pull off another performance. (U.S. plays Germany at noon ET on Thursday, June 26, on ESPN.)

What are the different scenarios that allow the U.S. to go through to the next round?

If the U.S. tied Germany, that would mean both Germany and the U.S. would go through, because they would both end up with more points than Portugal could possibly get even if Portugal beats Ghana (they also play at noon ET on Thursday, June 26, on ESPN2). If the U.S. wins, of course, it would take care of that and ensure qualification no matter what happens in the other game.

There’s still one scenario where the U.S. could go through even if they lose against Germany, and that would be a 1-1 tie between Portugal and Ghana. Portugal and Ghana both have one point, and if they tied they’d have 2, and the U.S. would still have its 4 points.

But things get complicated if the U.S. loses, and either Ghana or Portugal wins. Then you have to start looking at goal difference — the difference between goals scored and goals allowed, and the overall goals scored. That’s kind of a complicated scenario best left to figure out when and if that happens.

U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard reacts as Portugal's Silvestre Varela scores his team's second goal, creating a 2-2 tie, during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard reacts as Portugal’s Silvestre Varela scores his team’s second goal, creating a 2-2 tie, during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Many thought the U.S. soccer team didn’t have much of a chance at the beginning of World Cup. What are people thinking now?

I think they are really reevaluating the worth of the U.S. team. That first win against Ghana looked good, but people said, oh well, maybe Ghana’s not that good. But then Ghana went on and gave Germany a really hard time (they also tied 2-2). It showed that victory against Ghana was not a throwaway result for the U.S.

And now it happened again. They really took the game to Portugal when they had to, after they went down 1-0 early in the game. They’ve kind of shown they are a team to be reckoned with, though I wouldn’t go crazy and say the U.S. can definitely go very far in this tournament. They still have to do it one more time before they can convince everybody.

What are the U.S.’s chances against Germany?

I think given the level of play that they’ve shown in the first two games, a tie is not out of the question. When Germany played Ghana, you could see that they’re not a perfect team, and if you have a good game against them, you could be on level terms with them.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann has been quoted as saying he does not intend to go into the Germany game playing for a tie or just hoping for nobody to score. He says he’s going to go with a team playing for a win. I think that’s what you have to do. The U.S. showed that with Portugal. You have to take the game to the opposition, really try to play some attacking soccer and maximize your chances to minimize what Germany can do.

What’s Recife — the location of Thursday’s U.S.-Germany match — like? Is it as hot as Manaus?

It doesn’t have a reputation as a place as hot and humid (as Manaus), but you’re talking similar temperature and pretty high humidity. From what I’ve seen from other games that have been played in Recife, it’s a tough venue. Maybe not as tough as Manaus, but a pretty tough one to play soccer in June in Brazil.

Anything else about the tournament as a whole?

In this tournament, there have been more goals scored than at the same point in the tournament four years ago in South Africa. It’s also been really interesting to see how things have changed drastically for many teams between their first game and their second game. Some teams looked great in their first game, but have struggled in the second. Some teams looked terrible and everyone’s written them off, but now they look good. There have been some really unpredictable results, none more so than Spain being out of the tournament already, which has made this a really interesting tournament to watch.

The World Cup goes until July 13. See all of the PBS NewsHour’s World Cup coverage.