The United States men's national team scored a stunning triumph on Monday thanks to John Brooks's 88th-minute goal in a 2-1 win over Ghana. And with Germany and Ghana tying 2-2 on Saturday in a scintillating match, things have set up beautifully for the USMNT in their quest to advance to the knockout stage of the 2014 World Cup.
With a win, the U.S. is through to the tournament's elimination matches for the second straight World Cup — and not even an 8-0 loss to Germany in the final game of Group G could change that. With a tie, the U.S. will be tied with Germany for the top of the group, and in good shape to advance — if it can get a point out of its match against Germany, or if Portgual can avoid losing to Ghana, the U.S. would likely go through. Only a loss leaves the Americans with substantially reduced hopes — both Portugal and Ghana would remain alive, and America would need a massive upset win over Germany to assure passage beyond the group stage.
The good news for the U.S. today is that Portugal comes in black and blue: The peerless Cristiano Ronaldo looked diminished against Germany in Portugal's opening loss, defender Pepe cannot play because of a red card, and Fábio Coentrão's status is in doubt.
And there's not much of a fear factor for the Yanks, either: The boys in red, white, and blue slammed Portugal 3-2 in the 2002 World Cup, and that team, too, boasted a magisterial player in midfielder Luis Figo.
Can the Yanks keep marching on? Here's hoping. Flip on ABC now, and flip to ESPN at 6.