USMNT Report: Daunting WC Draw for Yanks

As Klinsmann extends his contract, can USA escape Group G?
by Herb Scribner   |   Friday, December 13, 2013

Soccer Newsday Graphic

The United States Men’s National Team learned the path it’ll have to take to reach World Cup glory this past weekend.

And it’s a path that few would choose to travel on, as not only will the USA’s journey to World Cup glory be blocked by some of the world’s best, but ghosts and demons of tournaments past haunt this group.

On the morning of Dec. 6, on the eve of the USA’s domestic league’s final, the USA learned it’ll face Germany, Ghana and Portugal in the group stage, putting it in one of the more difficult groups of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Though it isn’t the group of death – that is reserved for the hellish quartet of Holland, Spain, Chile and Australia – it’s a group that’s given the Americans a mountain to climb and a rainforest to trek through in order to triumph.

And with USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann signing an extension until 2018, the USA might not hold anything back when it travels to Brazil.

Here’s a look at the USA’s schedule for the group stage:

June 16 – 6 p.m. EST
Estadio Das Dunas - Natal

June 22 – 6 p.m. EST
Arena Amazonia - Manaus

June 26 – 12 p.m. EST
Arena Pernambuco - Recife

Ghana will pose an all too familiar threat for the United States, as the Ghanaians have followed the Americans closely in recent years. Not only did they eliminate the USA in the 2006 World Cup, but they did the same in 2010 too. Add to that Ghana’s recent overpowering World Cup Qualifying win over Egypt, which was headed by former USMNT coach Bob Bradley, and you can see the history of these two teams is building.

“We’re going to take it one game at a time, starting with Ghana who gave us some issues in the recent World Cups,” USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann said. “If we start off there well, then it builds even more confidence for the next two big ones.” 

Ghana is a tough team – having previously been touted the Brazil of Africa – and will pose an immediate threat. A win will be necessary for the United States to control their fate in the following games, as well as to lift their confidence for finally getting one over on their international rival.

But the celebration won’t last too long, as the Americans will have to go toe-to-toe with Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal. Along with Pepe, Nani, Miguel Veloso and Joao Moutinho, Portugal is more than the one-trick pony some might assume it to be because CR7 is up there with Ribery and Messi as the best players in the world for 2013. Ronaldo, though, does deserve a fair share of praise since he’s been so dominate for Real Madrid this year, and played a huge role in Portugal qualifying for the World Cup in a play-off with Sweden. He will certainly blaze past the USA’s backline, which still hasn’t been set and established yet.

Portugal hasn’t been consistently successful in past World Cups. The USA previously defeated Portugal in the 2002 edition. So a draw is certainly possible if The Navigators and their captain aren’t sailing full-speed.

And that leaves Germany, a perennial powerhouse in the world game. Touting some of the world’s great players – Mesut Ozil, Mario Götze, Manuel Neuer, Sami Khedira (if healthy), Philipp Lahm and others – this team has the potential to win the World Cup and won’t hold back against the US.

In yet another interesting turn of events for the USA, Germany is not only the former team of Klinsmann, both playing and coachinbg, but they are managed by Klinsmann’s former assistant Joachim Low.

“We’ve been joking around about it already,” Klinsmann said. “We’re pretty relaxed about it. Obviously, once the World Cup starts everyone is going to be busy and we are going to prepare our team very well. We will have the confidence to take whoever on and then we take it one game at a time.” 

It’s true the Yanks picked up a win over Die Mannschaft earlier this year, but it was a German B team, and still required 4 American goals to pick up the win. Playing away in Brazil won’t help matters.

The United States has one more opponent for the World Cup, though, and that’s the travel schedule. Klinsmann and his squad will need to travel more than 9,000 miles in 10 days from one end of Brazil to the other. Fatigue, jet lag and different climates will surely plague the United States in the group stage. This kind of travel for the World Cup is troublesome, and will certainly hinder the Americans in the group and possibly carrying-over if they advance.

“From a traveling point of view we have the furthest distance to travel with our team, but we’ll deal with it with a smile on our face and we’re going to attack,” Klinsmann said.

And let’s not forget that Klinsmann extended his contract yesterday until 2018 (and he’ll also carry the technical director title). Now, he can make some bold moves in the group stage and take some chances that a man on the brink of losing his job might not take. By extending his contract, US Soccer is showing it has confidence in Klinsmann going forward, and that they appreciate the direction he’s taken the team. No matter what happens at the World Cup, the Klinsmann era will continue for another round of World Cup Qualifying. Whether or not the success of this round will carry over after the 2014 World Cup is another question.

It’s possible for the US to get out of the group stage, especially with positive results against Portugal and Ghana. Today’s Germany might be a bit of a stretch for the US to overcome so gaining points versus both other teams will be vital.

The World Cup Draw didn’t do the USA any favors, and may offer a painful reminder of where the United States really ranks among the world’s best.

NEXT UP: February 1 – Friendly: United States vs. Korea Republic, StubHub Center, Carson, Calif. 5 p.m. EST, TBD.


UMass Amherst
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FC Barcelona
SN managing editor and award-winning journalist, Herb has always been known as "The Soccer Guy" wherever he goes. He's a leftback in most outdoor and indoor leagues. He also writes for Deseret News National.