OT: Tiebreakers/Breakdown of U.S. Chances to Advance

Submitted by Brady2Terrell on June 18th, 2010 at 4:58 PM

Now that the England/Algeria game is concluded, the scenarios for U.S. advancement in the 2010 FIFA World Cup are very clear.  The current standings (points in parenthesis) are:

Slovenia (4)
England (2)
United States (2)
Algeria (1)

If the United States beats Algeria, then they finish as one of the top two teams and ADVANCE regardless of the outcome (W/L/T) of the England/Slovenia game by virtue of points.

If the United States loses to Algeria, then they finish outside the top two and DO NOT ADVANCE regardless of teh outcome (W/L/T) of the England/Slovenia game by virtue of points.

If the United States ties Algeria, then things get interesting.
*If this happens and England beats Slovenia, we DO NOT ADVANCE.
*If this happens and Slovenia beats England, we ADVANCE.
*If this happens and England and Slovenia tie, we go to TIEBREAKERS WITH ENGLAND to see who the 2nd team to advance is.

FIFA Tiebreakers: http://fredericiana.com/2010/06/16/fifa-world-cup-tie-breaker-rules/

1st tiebreaker: goal differential (tied 0 to 0)

2nd tiebreaker: goals scored.  The U.S. currently has 3 goals scored while England has 1; thus, England needs their game to be tied at a number of at least 2, increasing one for each goal the U.S. scores on Wednesday.  If England scores 3 more than the U.S. on Wednesday, they're in.  If England scores 1 more goal or less than the U.S. on Wednesday, the U.S. is in.  If it's exactly two more, then...

3rd tiebreaker: points against each other (tied)

4th tiebreaker: goal differential against each other (tied)

5th tiebreaker: goals scored against each other (tied)

6th tiebreaker: FIFA DRAWS STRAWS.

So to summarize:

1. If the U.S. wins, we're in.
2. If the U.S. draws and Slovenia beats England, we're in.
3. If the U.S. draws and Slovenia ties England and their tie is at less than two goals more than our tie, we're in.
4. If the U.S. draws and Slovenia ties England at a score two goals more than our tie, FIFA draws straws between the U.S. and England.

In all other scenarios we're out.

If you assume all teams are equal, that gives us a 50% chance to advance.  If you assume the U.S. is at least equal to Algeria, it gives us a 75% chance.

GO (Red, White and) BLUE, BEAT ALGERIA!



June 18th, 2010 at 5:01 PM ^

Thanks for posting this.  I really can't believe that FIFA has to resort to drawing straws though; that just seems ridiculous to me.


June 18th, 2010 at 5:26 PM ^

The problem is that there aren't any more sensible tiebreakers, and forcing them to play an extra game would throw the whole schedule off. What do you propose? Most shots on goal? Most corner kicks? Fewest yellow cards? 


June 18th, 2010 at 5:36 PM ^

1) Battle Royale fight to the death, last team standing

2) A game of Risk

3) Most wives shagged of fellow countrymen (England wins unless you count Harkes/Wynalda)

4) Dance-off inside the center circle. Judges will be David Bowie and Ted Nugent. If the judges fail to agree on a winner then they will fight to the death and the remaining judge will select the winner.


June 18th, 2010 at 5:07 PM ^

Fixed - had it right most of the way, wrong twice.  If Yugoslavia had stayed together we wouldn't have this problem (and from the performance of their constituent states, they might be making some noise in this tournament, too..).


June 18th, 2010 at 5:04 PM ^

Seemed crazy to me too - especially that, in four-team pool action, most ties are going to be between two teams, meaning the 3rd, 4th and 5th tiebreakers will never come into play (goal differential and goals against each other will always be equal if points against each other are equal, i.e., you tied).


June 18th, 2010 at 5:11 PM ^

I was thinking the same thing. I'm glad I wasn't missing anything. It seems the 3rd, 4th, and 5th tiebreakers could be summed up in one "head to head."  If one team won it a better goal differential, had more points, and scored more goals.


June 18th, 2010 at 5:05 PM ^

has yet to score a goal in the tournament- I believe as long as the US team comes out and dictates the pace of the game early (meaning scoring first and not giving up an early goal) we should be fine.

Thanks so much for posting this- big help!


June 18th, 2010 at 5:19 PM ^

If that thought process holds, Spain hasn't scored a goal in the World Cup either.  I'm not saying Algeria will score, but we can't just assumer they won't.

I do agree with scoring first and early, though.  A tie is not going to be enough, considering the English are coming to kill some Slovenians (or that will be the mentality).  I think both teams win, so just make sure we win by more than England so we can win the group.


June 18th, 2010 at 5:19 PM ^

As I read it, the disallowed goal isn't actually as harmful as it could have been.  If it had gone through, a loss to Algeria would still knock us out of the tournament in the event of anything but an England/Slovenia draw.  The big difference is that instead of needing tiebreakers, a draw would send us through.  Let's just beat Algeria and make it moot.


June 18th, 2010 at 9:14 PM ^

Had the ref not been a colossal nincompoop:

1) A win would guarantee us the top spot in the group.

2) A draw would get us in no matter what (and we'd have a solid shot at #1).

3) A loss by one goal would be good enough. (We'd be tied with Algeria on 4 pts, even on goal difference, ahead on goals scored. With Slovenia on 3 and England on 2, they couldn't both pass us.)


June 19th, 2010 at 12:28 PM ^


Algeria's at -1.  If they beat us by 1, they'll be at 0.

We're at 0.  If they beat us by 1, we'll be at -1.

Algeria would then be at 4 points, and us as well (had that goal counted.)  So they'd beat us on that tiebreaker.  Either Slovenia or England would pass us with a win.  So goal or no goal, a loss vs. Algeria is devastating; only with the goal counting, it'd only be mostly devastating rather than entirely.


June 18th, 2010 at 5:19 PM ^

Thanks for the informative post.

I'd like to know how you got the probabilities though. The best method I can think of would be to use the average of many betting lines and just make it a conditional probability problem. It'd be a nice high school stats problem.


June 18th, 2010 at 7:44 PM ^

Well I assumed all teams are equal strength (as I noted); there are then 9 possible outcomes (Each combination of us winning/losing/drawing and England doing same).  In four outcomes we are in, and in one we are a coinflip, so 4.5/9 = 50%.  If you assume we at least tie Algeria (which I noted in my 2nd probability), then you remove the outcomes where we lose; of the win/tie scenarios, we're in on 4 and a coinflip on one, so 4.5/6 = 75%.


June 18th, 2010 at 5:27 PM ^

...USA, the ENG-ALG result was, as the Brits say, massive.

I certainly like our chances to advance with the new scenarios, but given today's results the Nats cannot afford to sleep on the Algerians. Especially since ALG will be chasing a historic result - advancing AND ousting ENG and the USA in one fell swoop.

Wednesday should be one hell of a day of drama.


June 18th, 2010 at 8:56 PM ^

If it's going to be like that, the US has fought wars against 11 of the other 31 countries in the WC, and has invaded another (goooo Honduras!) and provided Vietnam-like military assitance (but successful) to yet another (Greece).

The 11:


Vichy France

England (Not counting South Africa, Australia, or New Zealand because to my knowledge, England didn't draw troops from them during the Revolutionary war or the War of 1812)

Algeria (As part of Vichy France)




North Korea





And that's not even that impressive.  All of the European teams have a leg up on us, mainly because they've pretty much fought every other European team + Japan and the NORKs, and they've also fought their former colonies.


June 18th, 2010 at 10:05 PM ^

...pretty silly.

  • Slovakia?  Why, because the Sudetanland was incorporated by Germany just prior to WWII?  I have a hard time with this one. 
  • Vichy France were a puppet government set up by the Germans and we fought agaist them at the same time we were fighting alongside the Free French.  That's hardly fighting against the French.
  • We fought in Algeria against deployed German and Italian forces, not against the government of Algeria.  
  • The Vietnam-like assistance to Greece post-WWII was to prevent the spread of communism down from the Balkans and prevent Greece from coming under Soviet influence and control.  I'm sure the Greeks are pretty pissed about that.

The only countries in that list that may have a valid historical beef with us are Mexico and Spain. 


June 18th, 2010 at 7:27 PM ^

their destiny which is good to know.  Looking  at Group D standings, I prefer that USA to win the group because I still think Germany would still win the Group D.  The best possible team for USA to face is Ghana, maybe even Aussie(if they beat Ghana) rather than Serbia.


June 22nd, 2010 at 12:11 AM ^

We beat Algeria and:

a) England and Slovenia draw and we beat Algeria by more than one goal;

b) England and Slovenia draw, we beat Algeria by one goal, and in doing so, we score at least one more goal than Slovenia does against England (if we score the same, then you get into that drawing-of-lots thing);

c) England beats Slovenia, and their margin of victory is less than ours; or

d) England beats Slovenia by the same margin as ours over Algeria and they score no more than one more goal in their match than we do in ours (again, that drawing-of-lots thing returns if our margins are equal and England scores two more goals than we do).