Thanks to Iran’s shocking victory over Wales on Friday, the United States entered their highly-anticipated match with England knowing that they could not be eliminated from the knockout stage, regardless of that game’s result.
Now that the match with England has ended in a tie, we now know what the United States has to do to advance to the knockout stage.
After a scoreless first half, the teams began the second half with the United States seeing the run of play, much like how the first 45 minutes drew to a close. But the pressure never resulted in a goal, and the match closed in on stoppage time with zeros still on the board.
Four minutes of stoppage time were added, thanks to a relatively clean match between the two sides. England had a chance early in stoppage time with a corner, but the ball into the box settled safely in the hands of keeper Matt Turner. England had another chance moments later, on a free kick just outside the box. Luke Shaw put a ball into the box, but a header from Harry Kane sailed wide.
The final flurry of the match began with a free kick for the United States in the 95th minute. Everyone came forward for the United States, including Turner, but nothing would materialize, and the final whistle blew, ending the match in a scoreless draw.
It was the first scoreless draw for the United States in their history at the World Cup.
Now that the dust is settled, here is how things stand in the group, and what the United States needs to do Tuesday to advance.
Group B Standings
Heading into the final match of the group stage, here is how things currently stand in Group B after Friday’s pair of matches:
As you can see, England remain atop the group, sitting on four points thanks to their win over Iran and their draw with the United States. Iran are in second, due to the victory over Wales, and the United States stand third, thanks to the pair of draws.
Now here is what has to happen Tuesday for the United States to advance. With Friday’s scoreless draw with England, the United States is in solid position when it comes to advancing to the knockout round, but there is still work to be done.
They need to win on Tuesday.
With a win over Iran on Tuesday, that would see the United States finish group play with five points. That would be enough to see the United States through to the knockout round, with the only question being whether they would emerge as winners of Group B, or as runners-up. With a win over Iran, the United States will win Group B if the England game against Wales ends in a victory for Wales. If England were to win that match, they would win the group, while the United States would be the runners-up.
Along this path, if the match between England and Wales ends in a draw, that would put both England and the United States on five points. That would require tiebreakers to determine the group winner. With the first tiebreaker being goal differential, England would win the group unless the United States beats Iran by five goals or more on Tuesday.
We will know much, much more on Tuesday. The United States squares off with Iran at 2:00 p.m. ET from Al-Thumama Stadium, while England and Wales kick off at 2:00 p.m. ET from Al-Rayyan Stadium.
Knockout Stage Permutations
Here is what we know for the knockout stage of the World Cup. The teams that advance out of Group B are slated to play the teams that advance out of Group A, with one match slated for Saturday, December 3, and the other slated for Sunday, December 4.
That first match will see the winner of Group A squaring off with the runner-up in Group B. Right now, Netherlands and Ecuador are tied atop Group A, thanks to their draw against each other on Friday. Both teams have four points, and both teams have a goal differential of +2.
Netherlands, one would think, have the inside track to winning the group, as they play host nation Qatar on Tuesday while Ecuador has to tangle with Senegal. Senegal is currently third in the group, having lost to Netherlands in their first match, but scoring a victory over Qatar on Friday.
Both Netherlands and Ecuador can advance with a draw in their final matches, although the winner of the group in this scenario would likely come down to the fifth tiebreaker, the “fair play record.”
If one of the two teams wins, and the other plays to a draw, the team that wins in their final match would win the group, while the team that plays to a draw would be the runner-up.
Things get trickier if there are different results. This snapshot from our friends at DK Nation is a good look at the scenarios for Group A:
Netherlands win or draw: Qualify for knockout round
Netherlands loss: Qualify for knockout round if Ecuador win, tiebreakers in play if Ecuador-Senegal draw or Senegal win
Ecuador win or draw: Qualify for knockout round
Ecuador loss: Eliminated if Netherlands win or draw, tiebreakers in play if Netherlands lose
Senegal win: Qualify for knockout round
Senegal draw: Eliminated if Netherlands win or draw, tiebreakers in play if Netherlands loss
Senegal loss: Eliminated from knockout round
Regardless of how Group A finishes, first things first for the United States.
They need to take care of matters on Tuesday against Iran.
Which, if you told United States supporters that was what they needed to advance before the World Cup began, they’d likely have taken it in a heartbeat.