It has come down to this: One match for one nation.
The United States men's national soccer team did what it had to do Sunday against Portugal, which was play a more attacking and overall better game than it did against Ghana in the Group G opener of the World Cup.
But the result could have been even bigger.
Instead of a 2-1 victory that would have eliminated the Portuguese and sent the Americans through to the second round, the United States settled for a draw as reigning FIFA Ballon d'Or (world player of the year) winner Cristiano Ronaldo zipped a perfectly weighted cross to Silvestre Varela for the equalizer in the dying seconds of the match.
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That punch in the gut left the Stars and Stripes, and the team's fans, in shock.
And those last 30 seconds might come back to haunt the United States because it means a result (win or draw) against European heavyweight Germany is needed to guarantee a place in the last 16.
So here's a quick look at the scenarios for Thursday's noon matches:
United States win
If America wins, then it tops Group G and will play the runner-up from Group H. Belgium currently leads with Algeria, Russia and South Korea jockeying for second place in the group, which will be decided later Thursday afternoon.
United States draw
If the U.S. draws with Germany, then Germany wins the group and the U.S. takes the runner-up spot and will face the Group H winner in the Round of 16.
United States loss
Should the U.S. lose to Germany, then the Portugal-Ghana match comes into the equation. That match, which occurs at the same time as the U.S-Germany tilt, would factor in with tiebreakers. But one of those sides will need to win by a decent margin. The first tiebreaker is goal differential, which has the U.S. sitting pretty at plus-one with Ghana (minus-one) and Portugal (minus-four) behind.
Ghana would need a three-goal swing (ie. a 2-0 win coupled with a 1-0 U.S. loss means America is out and the Black Stars progress as the runner-up).
Portugal needs a blowout victory to overturn its goal differential standing.
The Amazon effect
Manager Juergen Klinsmann's magic touch with substitutions and formation against Portugal -- using Clint Dempsey as the lone striker rather than Aron Johannsson or Chris Wondolowski in Jozy Altidore's place -- worked wonders.
But he'll need to get creative in boggling up potent Germany, the nation he won a World Cup with as a player in 1990 and managed to a semifinal berth in 2006.
The chief change has to be Geoff Cameron, a defender for Premier League side Stoke City.
But his experience competing in arguably the biggest league in the world doesn't mean squat in this World Cup.
Cameron was the main culprit in both Portugal goals. His failed clearance led to Nani putting Portugal ahead 1-0 early in the first period, and he was responsible for marking Varela on the game-tying goal.
Sure, DaMarcus Beasley stopped marking Nani on the first goal and didn't step in on Ronaldo to make the angle tighter on that scorching cross. And Michael Bradley turned the ball over near midfield, leading to the Ronaldo-Varela connection, and fired a shot on a practically empty net that banged off a Portuguese defender's knee. But Cameron was the top defensive offender.
In addition, the U.S. is coming off a game in Manaus and on one day's less rest than the Germans. Teams have fared terribly coming from the Amazon. No team has won its subsequent match after playing there. Costa Rica shocked Italy the match after the Italians played in the Amazon.
That also means Portugal, the other participant in Sunday's match in Manaus, is under the same dilemma.
However, with the Ghana players reportedly threatening to boycott the final group stage game if they aren't paid $100,000 per player for competing in the World Cup, the Black Stars' focus might not be on the task at hand.
No matter what drama unfolds in the other Group G match, it's one match for one nation.
Jason Dill, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7017. Follow him on Twitter @Jason__Dill