Germany Wins, US Advances.... Huh?

The Weirdness of World Cup Advancement

Clint Dempsey,  Mats Hummels


The United States sputtered against a superior German side, and withered in the face of Thomas Mueller’s deadly accurate shooting. On a sodden pitch in Recife, Team USA ended up losing 0-1 today.

And now they advance to the next round.


If you’re baffled about how exactly a team can lose at a critical juncture and still move to the next stage of the tournament, you’re probably not alone.

What determines advancement in the group stage of the tournament is points. What determines points are wins, losses, ties, goals for, goals against and so on.

So where Thursday’s US-Germany game goes, what’s important is what happened in the other game of Group G: Portugal-Ghana.

With the most points in Group G (seven), Germany advances without question, regardless of their win. The Americans finish the group stage tied for second place with four points after a win against Ghana and a tie against Portugal. No points for a loss against Germany.

Portugal was in third place going into today’s game, after losing to Germany and tying the Americans. That gave them one point, the same number of points of Ghana (loss to Americans and a surprising tie with Germany).

Portugal ended up winning its game with Ghana on Thursday, 2-1, giving it four points, the same number of points as the Americans.

So how did the American advance? They had fewer goals scored against them than the Portuguese did (Germany pounded them in the first game, 4-0)

Here’s how the final table for the so-called Group of Death looks as of the conclusion of all group games Thursday:

All Times GMT (EDT + 5 Hours)

Group G

Country Coach Wins W Losses L Draws D Goal Difference GD Points PTS
Germany GER Joachim Löw 2 0 1 5 7
USA USA Jürgen Klinsmann 1 1 1 0 4
Portugal POR Paulo Bento 1 1 1 -3 4
Ghana GHA Kwesi Appiah 0 2 1 -2 1

The Americans play their first game of the Round of 16 next Tuesday against a to-be-determined opponent. The Germans play on Monday also against a to-be-determined opponent.

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