U.S. Win Over Slovenia Will Almost Guarantee A Second Round Berth


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↵Landon Donovan has a nice bit of perspective when it comes to the United States' chances to make it out of their group and into the knockout round of the World Cup. Talking with Washington Post soccer scribe Steven Goff, Donovan knows that a win over Slovenia all but assures the USMNT a trip to the second round, but that a loss is ultimately devastating. ↵
↵⇥"In all likelihood, if we lose [to Slovenia on Friday], we are out of the tournament. That's the reality of the situation. As much as people put into the England game, this becomes a lot more important in that way. ↵⇥"A tie means we are still in the tournament, so you have to be aware of that. That being said, we understand very clearly that, if we win the game, we have a very good chance of going through." ↵
↵Donovan is right: A tie keeps their hopes alive, but a win would all but guarantee a visit to the second round, something the United States has done only twice in the previous five World Cups. He's also right that we put far too much into the England game. Heck, the uniforms are even designed like the old uniforms from 1950 in commemoration of the time the U.S. defeated England in the World Cup. Their record that year? One win, two losses ... and a first-round exit. A result against England does not a World Cup celebration make. At least not with this year's team. ↵

↵Let's assume for a moment that the United States does defeat Slovenia in the second match. If the United States enters the final match in the group against Algeria with a win and a tie, there are 27 different potential outcomes. Of those 27, the U.S. advances to the second round in 20 of them. Of the seven other scenarios, the U.S. still could advance based on goal differential in four. ↵

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↵Assuming the USMNT defeats Slovenia, here are the potential scenarios going into the third group match: ↵

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↵If England defeats Algeria… ↵
↵If England defeats Algeria and the USMNT defeats Slovenia, it puts both teams at the top of the group with four points. Slovenia would have three and Algeria would have zero. ↵

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↵There are nine potential results for the third set of group matches (USMNT could win, lose or draw and England-Slovenia could be a win, loss or draw for those teams as well). Of those nine scenarios, the USMNT advances to the second round in seven of them, including two scenarios in which they lose to Algeria. In this scenario, a win or a tie gets the USMNT through. If they lose to Algeria and Slovenia beats England, the U.S. or England would advance on goal differential and other tiebreakers. If the England and Slovenia tie, England would win the group and the USMNT and Slovenia would fill second place based on tiebreakers. ↵

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↵If England ties Algeria… ↵
↵You'd think that the USMNT would want England to struggle against Algeria, and yes, to win the group a tie would be nice in the other match (again, assuming a win over Slovenia). But, if England ties Algeria, it actually produces the fewest chances for the USMNT to advance. Sure, they'd still advance with a win, no matter what the result of England and Slovenia. ↵

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↵England and Algeria ending in a tie would also guarantee that the USMNT could move on to the second round with a tie against Algeria in its final match. However, by giving Algeria a point, it all but eliminates the USMNT's chances of advancing with a loss in its final match. Remember, no U.S. World Cup team has gotten a point in its last group match. If that happens in this scenario, the only way the U.S. could possibly advance is if England ends with three ties (and finishes in last in the group) with the other three teams having a 1-1-1 record creating absolute tie-breaking chaos. ↵

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↵If England loses to Algeria… ↵
↵Does anyone really expect this to happen? Again, a win for the USMNT would have them moving on, this time as the group winner. A tie would also be enough to get into the second round, and could be enough to win the group if England and Slovenia tie, or England wins. If Slovenia wins and the U.S. ties, they would advance as the second team. ↵

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↵In this scenario – let's call it "completely and utterly unlikely to happen" style chaos – the USMNT could advance with a loss if England were to win or England and Slovenia tie. A tie would create a tie-breaker situation between Slovenia and the U.S. for the second slot. A win would for England would create a tie-breaker with the Three Lions. If the USMNT loses to Algeria and Slovenia beats England, both England and the United States would be out. Talk about chaos. ↵

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↵Again, all of those scenarios are predicated on the fact that the USMNT goes out and beats Slovenia. And also keep in mind that these scenarios are not weighted in any way and regardless of the result against Slovenia – be it win or tie, of course – the USMNT should be a heavy favorite over Algeria. Still though, if the United States loses to Slovenia, it's virtually over. The slimmest of scenarios would see the team advance at 1-1-1 but that would entail beating Algeria after they beat England and hoping that England doesn't beat Slovenia by more goals than the U.S. beats Algeria. Or something like that. ↵

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↵The USMNT could also still advance with a tie against Slovenia and a win over Algeria, finishing 1-0-2 in group, though they'd absolutely need to win their final match to advance. I suppose there is one way they could advance a 0-0-3 and that would be if England were to have the same record but with fewer goals scored. Or the USMNT could win a coin flip. Yes, it could be a cloak and dagger coin flip after all this mess and there's not a conspiracy theorist around who thinks the USMNT would win that over England. ↵

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↵How about this then ... go beat Slovenia. It's the easiest way to the second round. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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