The 2014 World Cup draw seemed to spell death for USA soccer. The prospect of facing perennial World Cup foe Ghana, fourth ranked Portugal and decorated Germany in Group G was not an optimistic draw for the Americans. But as of June 22, the USA can make American soccer history by advancing in back-to-back World Cups for the first time, if it can just beat Portugal.
After the Germans salvaged a tie with Ghana on June 21, they now only have four points after two matches. If the Americans can knock off Portugal, they will have six points, a guaranteed place in the second round and a chance to win this supposed group of death by merely tying Germany on June 26. After all the odds seemed to be against USA soccer going into the tournament, it is now 90+ minutes away from a landmark step forward.
Of course, before the World Cup even started, the prospect of being Portugal looked like a longshot. It got a little easier when the Portuguese were slaughtered by the Germans by 4-0 on June 16, when Cristiano Ronaldo hurt his knee and when Pepe was taken out of this match with a red card against Germany. Nevertheless, the Americans are also going without the injured Jozy Altidore, while Clint Dempsey has to avoid getting another blow to his nose.
Both the USA and Portugal have been banged up after just one match, which may or may not equalize them. Regardless, the chances of beating a short handed Portugal team are much higher than beating Germany. As such, if the Americans don't take advantage of this golden opportunity now, their odds of advancing in the World Cup will be cut down significantly.
Yet almost every break that could favor the USA soccer team has favored it so far, from the big start and finish against Ghana, to Portugal's disaster against Germany and the Germans' mere tie with Ghana yesterday. With just one or two more breaks today, the Americans will prove that this draw was fortunate for them after all.
America and Portugal's World Cup futures will either be made or broken, starting at 6 p.m. est on ESPN.