The final day of group play is today and for the U.S. it’s all about finishing in 4th place and playing in the 5th-8th consolation bracket where they will have the opportunity to play for 5th place and qualification for the World Championships. Currently the U.S. is in 5th place, level with Mexico on points, but in 5th due to a lower goal differential. Mexico plays Paraguay in the first game and later in the day the U.S. plays Costa Rica.
Scenarios for the Final Day of Group Play
There are 3 likely scenarios regarding qualification.
The Simple Scenario: If Mexico loses to Paraguay and the U.S. either wins or draws against Costa Rica, the U.S. will finish in 4th place.
Paraguay, Mexico and USA level on 4 points: If Mexico beats Paraguay and the USA beats Costa Rica, Paraguay, Mexico and the U.S. would be level with 4 points apiece. The first tiebreaker is points for games involving the 3 teams and each team will have 2 points for 1 win. The next tiebreaker is goal differential and since the U.S. suffered a 14 goal loss to Paraguay the U.S. is in a big hole. In fact, they would need Mexico to win by 26 in order not to finish last in the head to head standings for these 3 teams. Translation: If Mexico beats Paraguay, the U.S. can’t realistically finish higher than 5th in the group. (UPDATE: Unfortunately, this scenario is now reality as Mexico beat Paraguay 29-22)
Mexico, USA and Costa Rica level on 2 points: If Paraguay beats Mexico and the U.S. loses to Costa Rica, Mexico, the U.S. and Costa Rica would be level on 2 points. Again, the tiebreaker would come down to Goal Differential amongst the 3 teams, but it gets a little more complicated. Here’s who would advance as the fourth place team:
Costa Rica wins by 1: USA and Mexico level on GD of -1; Total offensive goals is next tiebreaker. If U.S. scores 23 goals vs Costa Rica, USA advances; 22 or less Mexico advances
Costa Rica wins by 2 or 3 goals: Mexico advances
Costa Rica wins by 4 goals: Costa Rica or Mexico advance based on total offensive goals
Costa Rica wins by 5 or more goals: Costa Rica advances.
Today’s Key Matches
Mexico and Paraguay play the first match (1200 Local, 1100 EDST), so the U.S. will know ahead of their game whether they are playing for 4th or not. On paper, Paraguay is the better team based on their easy victory over the U.S., but Mexico has a much better overall goal differential having played more competitive games vs Brazil and Chile.
Costa Rica and the U.S. play the 3rd match (1600 Local, 1500 EDST). The prospect of playing a Central American team at a handball tourney usually conjures up images of an easy victory against an undersized, inexperienced opponent. Having watched the Costa Rican team a bit, though, they look to have a side that is pretty athletic and mature. Meaning that their U19 team is composed of players that appear to be 18 or 19 and taller than one might expect. Also, of note, is they had a pretty competitive match vs Paraguay, losing 35-32. With the biggest U.S. offensive output being 23 goals, a slower paced game might be preferred.
Live Stream: Link
Standings and Results: Link