World Cup tiebreakers: USA have messy path ahead in Group G

SB Nation's 2014 World Cup Bracket'

To describe Group G of the World Cup as finely poised is to do it a staggering injustice. All four teams are within three points of each other after two matches, and although we unfortunately cannot end up with every team on four points, we're very likely to have to dig into FIFA's tiebreaking rules to work out who qualifies.

Tiebreakers

Just as a reminder, here are the tiebreakers used if two or more teams end up level on points. They start with the first scenario, and go down the list until one of the rules breaks the tie.

  • Goal difference in the group matches.
  • Greatest number of goals scored in the group matches.
  • Head to head result

Almost every time, ties will be broken by one of those three rules. However, should the teams remained tied, FIFA has more tiebreakers (the first two bullet points mostly concern three-way ties).

  • Goal difference resulting from the group matches between the teams concerned.
  • Greater number of goals scored in all group matches between the teams concerned.
  • Drawing of lots by the FIFA Organizing Committee.

Group G currently looks like this:

Germany play the United States, Ghana play Portugal, which gives us the following scenarios for the United States advancing.

By points: Any draw sees the United States go through. A USA win will see them through as group winners.

By goal differential: If the United States lose and one of Portugal and Ghana win, second place in Group G will be calculated by goal differential (team goals scored minus goals conceded). The US currently has a two-goal lead over Ghana and a five-goal one over Portugual, so if the United States lost by two and Ghana won by one, the Black Stars would go through at the USA's expense. Example score (for US advancement): Germany 2-0 USA, Portugal 1-0 Ghana.

By goals scored: If two sides end up equal on points and goal differential, the outcome will hinge on total goals scored. The US have a two-goal lead on Portugal and a one-goal lead on Ghana; any loss combined with a significant win from Portugal is bad news for the United States. Example score: Germany 3-2 USA, Portugal 0-1 Ghana.

By head-to-head: The US will advance on head-to-head record thanks to their 2-1 win against Ghana if at the end of play on Thursday they are level with the Black Stars on points, goal differential and goals scored. Example score: Germany 2-1 USA, Portugal 1-2 Ghana.

By drawing lots: The US can end up in a lottery with Portugal (but not Ghana) under the following circumstances: Portugal scores two more goals than the United States in this round of matches, and makes up a five-goal differential swing (but no more). Example score: Germany 3-0 USA, Portugal 2-0 Ghana. Ghana and Germany can also end up drawing lots; this scenario is far less likely.

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