World Cup Primer: With USA through the Group of Death, what happens now?
Yes, the USA lost its final group game against Germany, but it still had a big enough goal differential to get past Portugal and Ghana and into the next stage, called the Round of 16. Yes, tournaments where teams can lose but still advance make most Americans' heads hurt, but just roll with this one, the journey is worth it.
So, what happens now?
The USA finished second in its group, meaning it takes on the first-place finisher from Group H Belgium while Germany takes on second-place finisher Algeria. The game is Tuesday at 2 p.m. From here on out, each stage is a knockout round win or go home. The tournament progresses as follows:
Round of 16 • played Saturday to Tuesday
Quarterfinals • played July 4 and 5 (if the USA advances, it would play July 5)
Semifinals • played July 8 and 9 (if the USA makes it to this stage, it would play July 9)
Third Place • played July 12
Final • played July 13
Just how good is Belgium?
Belgium won all of its games in the Group Stage, but it wasn't exactly against the top contenders of the world. The No. 11-ranked team beat South Korea (ranked 57) 1-0, Algeria (ranked 22) 2-1 and Russia (ranked 19) 1-0. When it takes on 13th-ranked USA on Tuesday, it promises to be much more of a challenge than it faced in previous games.
When was the last time the USA made it to the Round of 16?
The U.S. Men's National Team made it to the Round of 16 last World Cup, in 2010, when it played Ghana and lost. Prior to that, the USA was in the Round of 16 in 1994. In recent history, the U.S.'s best finish came in 2002 when the team made the Quarterfinals. The USA played in the Semifinals in 1930. This is the first time the USA has progressed past the group stage in consecutive World Cups.
If USA beats Belgium, what then?
This is where it really starts to get challenging. The USA will have to face the winner of the Switzerland-Argentina match, and if Lionel Messi's excellent performance so far is any indication, Captain America Clint Dempsey and his squad will take on La Albiceleste (Argentina's team's nickname translates to the white and blue sky). That could spell some serious challenges for the USA, though despite an early gaffe, Omar Gonzalez is looking pretty strong and quick as a central defender. Check out The Tribune's Chris Kamrani's player analysis here. Had the USA finished first in its group, it would have to face the winner between France and Nigeria. France has been on quite the tear, and Germany will find itself facing one of those teams, quite possibly the French.
Can the USA win the World Cup this year?
Coach JÃ¼rgen Klinsmann has said that the USA will not win the Cup this year. Many criticized him for the statement before the Cup began, but he was managing expectations like so many coaches do. And it looks like he's probably not wrong. Here is the likely progression of the USA, if it were to win every round:
Round of 16 • Beat Belgium
Quarterfinals • Most likely have to beat red-hot Argentina
Semfinals • Most likely would face the seemingly unstoppable Netherlands
Final • Here, you could be facing Brazil, Colombia, France or Germany, among others, all worthy contenders.