Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

For the U.S., a Tie Against Ghana is as Good as a Loss

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For Team U.S.A., a tie might as well be a loss in today’s World Cup match against Ghana, who knocked the Yanks out of the 2010 World Cup during overtime in the Round of 16.

But today’s match is about more than payback. Ghana and the U.S.,  along with Portugal and Germany, are in Group G, considered this tournament’s so-called “Group of Death” because it’s stacked with powerhouse teams who all made it into the quarterfinals in 2010. Group G is one of the tournament’s eight groups, with only two teams from each group of four able to advance to the Round of 16. In that context, there’s no margin for mistakes.

U.S. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann has himself declared that “for us now, talking about winning a World Cup is just not realistic.” His remarks were chided as defeatist and un-American, but they weren’t very far off from the prediction of top American bank Goldman Sachs. 

The U.S. is predicted to tie 1-1 against both Ghana and Portugal, and then lose to Germany 2-1, according to number crunchers at Goldman Sachs—who performed regression analysis and distribution models for the investment bank’s fifth edition of “World Cup and Economics.”This doesn’t sound bad. But according to Goldman Sachs, it still wouldn’t be good enough for to the U.S. to advance.

In the first round of the World Cup, a team receives three points for winning, one point for tying, and zero points for losing, thus giving the U.S. two total points for tying with Ghana and Portugal while losing to Germany. That’s the same prediction for Portugal, but Goldman Sachs appears to give the Yanks a disadvantage for having the longest travel schedule of any team (8,866 miles), while giving the Europeans an advantage for having FIFA world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo. 

Goldman Sachs gives the U.S. a 41 percent chance of advancing to the Round of 16— ahead of Ghana (19 percent chance), but behind Portugal (54.1 percent chance) and Germany (85 percent chance). And it gives the U.S. just a 0.5 percent chance of winning the World Cup. 

A loss today would effectively send the Yanks home. To maintain any hope, the red-white-and-blue must at least tie with Ghana. And to have any shot at making it to the next round, the U.S. needs a win this evening in Brazil’s northwestern coastal city of Natal.

Meanwhile, American statistician Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight gives the U.S. an even worse 33.7 percent chance of advancing beyond Group G, and only a 0.4 percent probability of coming home with the World Cup trophy. 

But there’s also hope. The U.S. roster includes a handful of players who have recently moved from Europe-based clubs back to Major League Soccer (MLS) in the U.S., including current captain Clint Dempsey. “If they lead the U.S.A. out of the group stage, it could signal that U.S. domestic manufacturing (of football players) is indeed on the upswing,” according to the bank. 

Goldman Sachs’s model gives Brazil a 50 percent probability of winning the World Cup–specifically in a 3-1 rout of Argentina. Fellow banks UniCredit S.p.A. and Danske Bank A/S, as well as bookmakers Paddy Power Plc and Ladbrokes Plc, have also predicted that Brazil will win.


Tags: 2014 World Cup, Soccer, United States vs. Ghana
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