2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Pepe red card could be big boost to US hopes

Published: June 16, 2014, 6:09 pm, by Scott Kaniewski
Portugal's Pepe , left, puts his head on Germany's Thomas Mueller during Monday's group G World Cup match.  (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Portugal’s Pepe , left, puts his head on Germany’s Thomas Mueller during Monday’s group G World Cup match. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Thank you, Pepe. That head butt to Oscar-deserving Thomas Mueller could be a key factor in helping the US national team advance to the knockout stages of World Cup 2014 in Brazil.

Portuguese defender Pepe was whistled for a foul on Germany’s Mueller. And when Mueller pretended as though he’d been seriously hurt, Pepe took exception, head butting Mueller. Serbian referee Milorad Mazic showed Pepe straight red.

At that point, the Portuguese, the United States’ second opponent, already trailed Germany 2-0. The Germans added another two goals to blow out Portugal 4-0. That puts the Portuguese at a minus-4 goal differential.

In the Group of Death, every goal counts. The US can take advantage of that goal differential with a win or even draw against Ghana today. If the US win today and draw with Portugal, then lose to Germany but by a reasonable margin (read not 4-0), they would most likely advance to the knockout stages.

A loss today against Ghana and all bets are off. But if the US men’s national team can pull off that win and go on to advance past the group stages, coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his US players should consider mailing Pepe a helmet with a thank-you note in it.

 Join Scott Kaniewski at gazette.com for a live chat during the US v. Ghana game kicking off at 4 p.m. Readers can submit questions and comments throughout the match. Also follow Scott on Twitter at @scottkaniewski5