2014 World Cup Draw Makes Life Difficult for America in Brazil
On Friday, the 32 teams involved in the World Cup learned their fate for the group stage. As the draw commenced, the picture for American soccer drew graver and graver as we were paired with several teams of high distinction. While the American presence in Brazil may be a short one, we know of at least 3 teams that we will certainly be playing: Ghana, Portugal, and Germany. While those teams have left most of the United States soccer fans gasping in despair, there is a slim chance of hope, though it depends on a lot of fortune falling their way.
America begins its World Cup quest on June 16, 2014 with a battle against Ghana. While an African nation isn’t typically the most feared soccer team around, we have an unfortunate history when playing against this group. Both of our last World Cups ended with 2-1 losses to Ghana, and while there will be at least two more games after this one, another loss would probably end our hopes right then and there. As Ghana is probably the weakest opponent in the group stage for America, this game is something we must get a result out of. A win would be wonderful, though a draw could be enough, if fortune falls our way…
Ghana is a team that plays with great intensity and pace. They have a roster full of European-based players like Sulley Muntari, Michael Essien, and the Ayew brothers. With a roster very comparable to that of the Americans, this game should be evenly contested and hopefully we will get our revenge!
Then it gets really hard. On the 22nd of June the United States faces Portugal, a team led by Cristiano Ronaldo who is arguably the best player in the world. Against one of the big boys in soccer, America again needs to grind out some kind of a result, with a draw providing the most optimistic outlook. The one thing that does help the cause is that the game is being played in the Amazonian city of Manaus. With extreme temperatures and humidity, this game will be a tough task physically for both teams. How does that help the cause? Well, when the elements come into play, the difference in talent level is diminished, meaning that an overmatched United States team will be able to contend against a powerhouse nation like Portugal. Isolating Ronaldo will be key. Another hopeful sign is the historic American victory over Portugal in the 2002 World Cup.
And then there is Germany. Here is where luck is of the greatest importance. Imagine this hypothetical situation. The USA draws both Portugal and Ghana. Germany wins both their matches against the same two teams. That would leave the points as: Germany: 6, USA: 2, Portugal: 1, Ghana: 1. In that scenario, Germany would have already clinched the group and progressed to the knockout stage. They would have little to play for and would likely play a weakened team. If America could beat such a “B” team (like they did last June), we would progress regardless of what else happens. Or, if we were to tie Germany (and Portugal and Ghana fight to a draw) we could also reach the next stage. As you can see this all hinges on Germany winning the group outright after the first two games, because in all honesty, if Germany needs points against the United States, they will take them. A squad of Thomas Muller, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mesut Ozil, and more international superstars fighting for their World Cup lives is far too strong for this American side.
And so hopefully the Americans will do enough in their first three games (and benefit a bit from luck) to move on to the next stage of the 2014 World Cup. While some will bemoan this terrible draw and its tough ramifications for the American national soccer team, I am looking forward to the challenge. Portugal and Ghana are the types of teams the we need to beat in order to become legitimate contenders on the international scene. As we learned in 2010, winning a soft group means little when you lose in the first knockout round. Therefore, we should relish the challenge and hope for some positive outcomes at the World Cup in Brazil!