Going into the World Cup draw on Friday, the U.S. knew they would need some luck to get a favorable group in June. Assigned in a pot with the rest of CONCACAF and teams from Asia, there was a greater chance the Americas would be drawn into a “Group of Death” than the group they played against in the 2010 World Cup (England, Slovenia, Algeria).
The U.S. were drawn into Group G. They will play Ghana, Portugal and Germany in order next June. These are three great teams and to make matters worse, the U.S. has to travel about 9,000 miles between their group games.
There aren’t many good things to come out of this draw. However, with over six months until the tournament begins, we might as well look for some positives.
The schedule for the U.S. doesn’t help them with travel but the order of fixtures could be a positive.
Ghana is their first opponent on a Monday night at 6 p.m. ET. By the time this game kicks off it might be the most anticipated game in U.S. soccer history. It’s a favorable time slot and the sport’s popularity is growing especially with social media. Ghana is a very strong team who knocked the U.S. out of the group stage in the 2006 World Cup and the round of 16 in 2010. Since those matches, the U.S. has improved under coach Jurgen Klinsmann. If the U.S. has really gotten much better and wants to take a huge step to being an elite team they must at least draw against Ghana. Winning the game could be a huge mental hurdle for the Yanks and would give them confidence going forward.
The U.S. plays Portugal six days later. Cristiano Ronaldo is Portugal’s star and one of the most well-known soccer names in the United States. He is the type of player that can take over a match and carry his team to victory. As good as Ronaldo has played in the last two years, Portugal has struggled as a team. They qualified for the World Cup through the European qualifying playoff after finishing behind Russia in their group. Portugal occasionally plays down to their opponents level including home draws to Northern Ireland and Israel in qualifying. Portugal will play Germany in the first game and if they lose to the Germans, Ronaldo and company will face pressure in a must-win situation.
Germany will be the third team the U.S. plays in Brazil. Before the draw, I wrote about how good Germany is and that it would be a team everyone would want to avoid. Klinsmann is a former German national team player and coach so that is a storyline already emerging for that match. If the Germans beat Portugal and Ghana in their first two matches, they might rest some of their starters if six points are enough to secure a spot for the knockout phase.
The popularity of the tournament and TV ratings should be high in the United States with early afternoon and evening kickoffs. With the U.S. opponents being a past nemesis in Ghana, and a Cristiano Ronaldo led Portugal, the country will have its attention on Brazil. If the U.S. needs a result against the mighty Germans in game three, then excitement will hit all-time highs.