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June 16, 2014
It pays to score first and win early at the World Cup

NATAL, Brazil - Some things to remember before the United States takes on Ghana later today and how vital it is for the Americans to win their World Cup opener.

It pays to win early

How important is winning your first match at a World Cup?

If you plan on advancing to the Round of 16 it is virtually a must.

Since group play was instituted for the first round in 1950, countries that win their first match have moved onto the next round 82.7 percent of the time (91-19). Teams that have lost their opening games have gotten out of the first round only 18.8 percent of the time (22-104).

And if you tie, you have more than a fighting chance - 61 percent (55-35) - of playing in the second round.

How important is scoring first?

Teams that score first have registered a 504-93-113 mark, which is a healthy 78.1 percent winning percentage, or just about four out of five games.

When a team scores first, it can begin to dictate a match. As the opposition gets antsy and starts to push up, the team in the lead has the option to counterattack and add to its total. It certainly doesn't happen that way all of the time, but it is a familiar scenario.

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