Tied with North Korea after two matches, the U.S. women could end up winning Group B on, of all things, good behavior and thus avoid a quarterfinal showdown with defending champion Germany.
Here's the deal:
The U.S. and North Korea are tied with four points apiece. They both have a plus-two goal differential. They both have scored four goals. They played each other to a tie. So if things stay the same after Matchday 3 on Tuesday, FIFA will break the tie in the standings based on the Fair Play points system in which yellow and red cards are considered. At the moment, the U.S. has one yellow card, Korea two.
Of course, in order for this bizarre scenario to unfold, the Americans and Koreans would have to both win or both tie Tuesday and not disrupt the goal differential or goal scoring balance. The first-place finisher will likely play Japan or England, the second-place team will likely get Germany.
Commenting on the possible scenarios, Coach Greg Ryan said: "The only thing that matters is our result against Nigeria and so that's the one thing we can control, that's the one thing we have to focus on as a team. We're not going to take anything for granted and not even thinking about the second round. Right now we have to take care of our business. This team has done well and has a lot of success because we've never gotten ahead of ourselves. It's important for our players, and me as well, I don't dwell on what happens later on.
Asked whether the coaches would be updated with the status of the Korean game, which will be taking place simultaneously, Ryan added: "We will know what is going on in that game. We'll have somebody staying in touch with us. You have to know, but that's something that we'll know, but our players have to focus on the game at hand and don't need to know anything about that other game -- just play -- and if there is anything we've got to figure out, we'll figure out at the time. We know what all our options are. They just don't need to know. As a player, you don't want to be thinking about what's going on a long ways away. There is enough to do right out there.
As for his team's match: "You've got Nigeria, who are very good, they have a lot of skill, athleticism, speed. In addition to being a very good soccer team, they'd made a great track team."
Ryan also had this to say about the Brazilians, who are perfect after a 4-0 victory over China: "Once you are down a goal in a World Cup, you have got to come out and throw the numbers forward and when you do that against Brazil, they just have too much speed, individual ability for China to stop. ... We beat Brazil pretty handily earlier in the summer. They are playing the same way. Lot of talented players, pretty disorganized in organization."
On a side note, Ryan plans to travel Monday to Hangzhou, which is about a two-hour drive from Shanghai, to watch the Germany-Japan match in person.
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