Win, Lose or Draw, U.S. Can Still Advance In World Cup

Jun 23, 2014

There were 30 seconds left to play and the United States team was beating Portugal 2 to 1. The majority pro-American crowd of more than 40,000 at last night’s World Cup game in Brazil were ready to party, but it wasn’t to be.

Portugal scored with less than half a minute to go, and now the U.S. looks ahead to Thursday evening’s game against Germany to determine its World Cup future.

Doug Tribou of NPR’s Only a Game joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to explain how the U.S. can remain in the World Cup after Thursday’s game, regardless of the outcome.


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It's HERE AND NOW. And the U.S. men's soccer team is getting ready for Thursday, when they will face Germany in the World Cup. That's after last night's roller coaster of a game when, with just seconds left to play, Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo made a pass to allow his teammate to score a goal to tie the game. Doug Tribou of NPR's Only A Game joins us to talk about this. And, Doug, we said a tie there, but it did sort of feel like last night's game was a loss for the U.S.

DOUG TRIBOU, BYLINE: It really did. If that goal had come five minutes earlier, maybe it wouldn't. But they were seconds away from their second straight win. It would've been the first time since 1930 that the U.S. opened the World Cup with two wins. Instead, they get a tie. It just makes it feel worse than it is. A loss obviously would have been worse, but the tie really feels sort of heartbreaking at that point.

HOBSON: And that's because if they had won, they would have advanced for sure. Now they have to beat Germany?

TRIBOU: There's a complicated formula here, this being international soccer. So you've got a number of ways the U.S. can get in. And there's still a lot of good opportunities here. They can beat Germany, and they advance. They can tie Germany, and they can advance. Or Ghana and Portugal can tie, and the U.S. can lose, and they can still advance. And there are other scenarios where they lose and, depending on the number of goals scored by one of the teams or the total number of goals scored and the differential - it gets complicated - but they still can lose and advance. So it's a good scenario for the U.S. If we had said three weeks ago, hey, they're going to open the tournament with a win and a tie, a lot of fans would have been happy with that.

HOBSON: Well, so what do you see happening now?

TRIBOU: I think they've got a very good chance against Germany. Germany has not been dominant in this World Cup as they often are. And I think the U.S. also has a sort of X-factor here. Jurgen Klinsmann, the U.S. coach, is German. In elite soccer there is often the backdoor agreement that allows things to happen. So if you see the game tied late in the game, it might just cruise to a tie because in that scenario, Germany and the U.S. both advance.

HOBSON: Well - but do you think that the fact that there's a German coach would give the U.S. some kind of an edge over Germany? Because maybe he knows what their strategy would be?

TRIBOU: He defiantly could have an advantage because Klinsmann was a coach in the 2006 world cup and the German coach was his assistant. So, theres's a lot of, sort of back and forth but that could be a two way street.

HOBSON: Doug while this game was going on, I was watching it, you know, my Facebook feed was blowing up, my twitter feed was blowing up. People are - they've got their faces painted with the American fly. Their using that phrase, I believe we can win. It's Quite a lot of excitement in the U.S. over the World Cup.

TRIBOU: Only seems to be growing. Every four years the interest seems higher, the access - with the Internet and with satellite television, just better and better. It's easier to follow every year. I think soccer's just getting more popular to be honest.

HOBSON: Well, and a winning team does help.

TRIBOU: Yes, winning does go a long way.

HOBSON: Doug Tribou with NPR's Only a Game. Thanks so much.

TRIBOU: Thanks, Jeremy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.