Group of Death? More like Group of Not Quite Dead Yet.
Earlier today, Ghana goalkeeper Fatau Dauda celebrated like the Hulk after saving a Cristiano Ronaldo header off the line. In the 80th minute, Dauda gave Ronaldo, Ronaldo's new haircut, and the United States an enormous gift. In perhaps the worst display of goalkeeping in the tournament thus far (though Russian keeper Igor Akinfeev could also make a strong argument), Dauda inexplicably chose to swat the ball rather than make an easy catch, delivering it right to Ronaldo’s feet for an easy goal.
Ronaldo's goal made American fans breathe easier, but it didn’t prove decisive. The Americans still would’ve gone through if Ghana and Portugal had played to a 1–1 draw. With Portugal’s 2–1 win and the United States’ 1–0 loss, the U.S. advances to the knockout round in second position in Group G, squeaking in over Portugal on goal differential. The United States scored four goals and conceded four in its three games, for a goal difference of zero. Portugal scored four and conceded seven, for a goal difference of minus-3. This is the second World Cup in a row that the U.S. has advanced to the knockout round.
The U.S. will now face the Group H winner in the Round of 16. Nate Silver has the Group H scenarios here, but it’s going to be Belgium unless something absurd happens. The Belgians trounced the U.S. 4–2 in a friendly in 2013. The U.S. was also scheduled to play Belgium in a closed-door, pre-World Cup scrimmage, but the game was called off due to traffic problems. Yes, traffic problems.
No matter who the Americans play, the U.S. game will be contested in Salvador, Brazil, at 4 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday, July 1. If the Americans win that game, they’ll play the winner of Argentina-Switzerland on Saturday, July 5.
To relive the USA-Germany and Portugal-Ghana games as they happened, read Jeremy Stahl’s live blog.