Your U.S.-Germany World Cup advancement primer

WASHINGTON — Germany, Ghana, Portugal and the U.S. are all still alive in their quest to advance in the World Cup. Both the U.S.-Germany and Ghana-Portugal games kick off at 12 p.m. Thursday.

With just the one game left for each country in Group G, literally almost anything is possible when it comes to who will advance and who will go home and have to try again in four years. Seeing as there are so many possibilities in play for the U.S., here’s a breakdown of the results you should root for, in descending order.

U.S. beats Germany (likelihood: low) This is the easy one. If the U.S. wins, not only are they through to the round of 16, but they win the group. They would also face the second-place finisher from Group H, likely either Algeria or Russia, instead of Belgium.

U.S. draws Germany (likelihood: moderate) We Americans may hate ties, but this one would be a victory. A draw leaves the U.S. with five points in the group, automatically advancing them. Germany would also finish with five points, but would advance in the top slot in the group based on goal differential (+4 to +1 for the U.S.), the first tiebreaker used.

Ghana draws Portugal (likelihood: moderate) This is the potential get-out-of-jail-free card for the Americans. The U.S. could get pulverized by Germany and it wouldn’t matter a bit under this scenario, which would leave both Ghana and Portugal at two points apiece, two points shy of the U.S.

Portugal beats Ghana by one goal, U.S. loses (likelihood: moderate) This is where things get testy. If Portugal wins by one, their overall goal differential will be -3 for the tournament. This means that the U.S. could lose by up to three goals and still advance, as both clubs would finish with four points and the Americans’ goal differential would still be -2. Factor in the same math for a two-goal win for Portugal and a two-goal loss by the U.S.

U.S. loses 2-1, Ghana wins 2-1 (likelihood: low) Consider this the last-gasp qualifying scenario. A U.S. loss and Ghana win by the same 2-1 margin leaves both nations with four points in the group. The Americans, currently at +1, would finish with a goal differential of zero. Ghana, currently -1, would as well. That would send the decision of which team goes through to the second tiebreaker, total goals. The U.S. would finish with five, as would Ghana. So FIFA would go to the third tiebreaker, head-to-head result, which — thanks to John Brooks’ header in the 86th minute of the Americans’ 2-1 victory over Ghana — would send the U.S. through by the skin of their collective teeth.

Got all that? Good. Because the games will be played simultaneously, making the advancement/elimination math all that much tougher to keep track of on the fly.

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