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When the clock strikes 9.30 a.m. (ET) Wednesday, put down whatever you're pretending to do whenever your boss approaches your desk, and make sure you're on this page. Forget Robert Green, forget Koman Coulibaly, the past 12 days come down to this: if the U.S. wins, it's through to the knockout phase of the 2010 World Cup. If it loses, it's coming home. You do not want to miss this.
Dramatic enough for you? I hope so, I've given myself a Warner Bros. style sore throat with that. I should also mention that a tie is by no means the end for Bob Bradley's men, but it makes things messy and means events between Slovenia and England, who kickoff at the same time, have an influence.
"We understand that if we win, we advance," Bradley has said, showing a reassuring grip on Wednesday's events. "And we understand that there's a possibility that we can still win our group." That will happen if the U.S. beats Algeria and England and Slovenia draw.
No U.S. team has ever won a third group stage match, losing to Chile, Austria, Romania, Yugoslavia Poland and Ghana in the last 60 years. But that was then. Now, a win would ensure a second round-of-16 appearance in eight years, and if the U.S. does finish top of the group, whoever clambers out of the Group D melee in second place awaits. Those matches kick off this afternoon, and mathematically, it could be anybody.
The intrigue, the heartache, the glory. Join me at 9:30 a.m. for the team lineups. And knowing that, if only for the sake of schadenfreude, you'll be mildly interested in how England is doing, I'll keep you up-to-date with that, too. Send me your emails before and during the game to email@example.com