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The buildup to Monday’s World Cup game between the U.S. and Ghana had it that the U.S. team would win or vanish. If they lost to Ghana, certainly they’d stand no chance against Portugal.
Now that they have three points, courtesy of Clint Dempsey and John Brooks, the calculus has shifted. Fans who love a winner, particularly one coached by a guy who says they can’t win, are asking themselves why the U.S. shouldn’t beat Portugal and whomever else might be unfortunate to draw them later on.
“After all,” they are musing, “Portugal’s banged up, right? And Portugal lost to Germany, 4-nil.”
They are saying “nil,” these people are. And some of them are saying “match” and “pitch.”
[sidebar title="Garrincha: The Rise And Fall Of A Soccer Legend" width="330" align="right"]Garrincha played with Pele and helped guide Brazil to consecutive World Cup titles. Meet soccer's forgotten superstar.[/sidebar]Anyway, they have read somewhere that when the U.S. last played Germany at the World Cup, some of the German players felt sheepish that they’d won. They told some of the U.S. players they'd been the stronger side.
(Some of these people are also saying “side.”)
So these people are figuring there’s no reason the U.S. shouldn’t beat Portugal on Sunday and then go on to beat Germany as well, though getting to six points by beating Portugal would be sufficient to get the U.S. beyond group play, which, as these people have discovered, is the point of the first three games.
“But,” they are thinking, or some of them, “we have a German coach. And perhaps his saying that the U.S. won't win the World Cup is just a bit of strategy, anyway.”
So that is one thing that is happening as this World Cup rolls along at three matches a day. The other thing is that lots of people are watching teams that aren't the U.S., at least according to the computers that keep track of such things, and many of them saw Brazil fail to beat Mexico on Tuesday. This no doubt led some of them who have been paying attention to events outside the stadia where the World Cup is transpiring to wonder what would happen if Brazil, unable to beat Mexico, were to disappear from the tournament prematurely, meaning before they had the opportunity to win it on July 13. And some number of people not inclined to speculate about events outside the white lines found themselves discovering that a game without goals can be a very attractive spectacle, as long as it includes a Mexican goal keeper named Guillermo Ochoa, who probably could have defended Texas if he'd been around when Mexico lost that.
Regarding soccer's fortunes here, the appreciation of a scoreless tie in which the U.S. wasn't involved may have been a more extraordinary development than Monday’s win.