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Why the U.S. Will Make it to the Knockout Stage of FIFA World Cup 2014

With the US being drawn into the group of death for next summer’s World Cup, I understand many people’s view that they will not make it out of the group.  Being drawn into the group of death may actually come as a blessing in disguise for the USMNT, as it could be an open group where anything can happen.  After both Germany and Ghana had been selected into group G, it seemed inevitable that the US would end up there, given that Ghana has knocked them out of the last two World Cups, and Klinsmann coming up against his former assistant.  Then when the European pot was being drawn, of course it just had to be Portugal.

There are a couple of positives for the US.  First, they get to see a lot of Brazil, about 9,000 travel miles will be involved in the group stage for them.  Also, if they make it out of the group, they will have the confidence to beat anyone in the knockout rounds (including the very real possibility of facing a talented Belgian side).  Also, by the time they play Germany, the Germans may already be qualified, and resting players.

I took the opportunity to put together a simulation of the US group.  Using betting odds given by William Hill for each game, a probability for the result of each match could be calculated.  Using these chances for each of the matches in the group stage, a simulation was carried out to determine the chance of each team advancing past the group stage.  2500 simulations were run using the given probabilities.  The results of this simulation can be seen below.

As can be seen, and expected, Germany have the highest percent of advancement followed by Portugal.  The US and Ghana are given similar chance of advancement, with the US slightly higher at a 36.76% chance.  This should give naysayers something to think about since they are given over a 1 in 3 chance of advancing from the group.

Next, the simulation was run after the game between the US and Ghana had been “played”.  Using the same probability for each of the other matches, each scenario was simulated (US win, draw, US loss).  The results of these simulations can be seen below.

Given the betting odds, if the US wins its first group game against Ghana, the chance that they advance increases from the original 36.67% to a 69.72% chance.  There is little to no change of the US chance to advance from the group in the event of opening with a draw against Ghana.  If the US lose in their first game, there is almost no chance for advancement from the most difficult group in the tournament.  We all knew the first game in this group against the easiest opponent would be important, but this shows just how important this game is.

Given that Ghana has knocked the USA out of the past two tournaments, it will be good to be starting off against them in the group stage.  If they were to face the Black Stars in the final group stage game, as they did in 2006, the idea of leaving on the back of a defeat by Ghana in a third straight World Cup could do a number on the US team’s confidence.  Given that the US will be out for revenge, and the fact that Klinsmann will have his team firing on all cylinders going in, I believe that the US will win their first game and have a good chance of advancing from this group.

All bet odds used in calculations were obtained from William Hill on December 6, 2013.

Editor’s note: Read the latest news, opinion and analysis regarding the US Men’s National Team.

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  1. Jake

    December 11, 2013 at 1:22 am

    All of you talking about Germany and Protugal advancing are a little off your rockers when it comes to Portugal. You are speaking of a team that barely qualified for the World cup. They have Ronaldo and they have proved that ALL they have is ronaldo. The U.S. defense doesnt let much speed dictate their play. They can shutdown Ronaldo and beat Portugal. Germany is the giant that has to be bested. If Germany has already qualified when the U.S. plays them then you will see a weaker german team than in the first two games. Give him credit in this article. All you can due is throw up your “opinions” the same as him.

  2. jtm371

    December 10, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    Dreaming put down the crack pipe and back away.

  3. Dean Stell

    December 10, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    Don’t listen to all the people taking shots at you. They just don’t know math and statistics. I like that your simulation shows the US with about a 35% chance of advancing. I’d love to know the standard deviation on that, btw…..

    It also points out that the match against Ghana is key. If the US wins, they have a decent chance of advancing with a single point from the Portugal and Germany matches. This is going to be a competitive group because there is no terrible team that everyone will beat up on. There are no HUGE upsets to be had in this group.

    I agree with most of the naysayers: The most likely event is that the US doesn’t make it out of this group, but beat Ghana (very possible), draw Portugal (very possible) and keep it close in a loss to Germany (very possible) and the US has a decent chance of going through with 4 points on goal difference.

    The US is a better team than they were in 2010. I mean, we played Rico Clark and Robbie Findlay last time. They aren’t getting NEAR the team this time.

    • Ralph Cinque

      December 10, 2013 at 10:02 pm

      Yes let’s not bother playing the World Cup at all . Just simulate a winner

  4. Flyvanescence

    December 10, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    I dont know where you’re getting it but i want some of whatever youve been smoking.

  5. Pakapala

    December 10, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    That was a sarcastic article right?

  6. yespage

    December 10, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    So there is roughly a 29% chance of heck freezing over? Because I think that is more likely than Germany not advancing. Additionally, how does a US win against Ghana give them a higher chance of moving to the elimination round over Germany and Portugal?

    Beating Ghana is just a minor stepping stone. The only happenstance event that could occur to give so much weight to the Ghana match up would be a Germany v Portugal draw.

    The game that makes or breaks is Portugal. The US really needs to beat Portugal (or possibly tie if Germany and Portugal tie and the US roughs up Ghana) to control their destiny. If the US beats Ghana, it can be assumed Germany and Portugal will as well, leaving us a two game round robin.

    To keep things real, for the US to move on, they need six points. I think this team is capable of anywhere between 6 and 0 pts in this group. It’ll come down to coaching and on-field performance/finishing. The finishing has been a World Cup issue as of late.

  7. Jim

    December 10, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    Why are Germany and Portugal’s “average points” affected by the result of the USA-Ghana game. Clearly you screwed up…

  8. BD

    December 10, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    “There are a couple of positives for the US. First, they get to see a lot of Brazil, about 9,000 travel miles will be involved in the group stage for them.”

    That’s awesome. I can’t wait to see the pictures that they post on their Instagrams….UM, WHAT?!?!?!?

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