U.S. Placed in World Cup Group of Death: Pros and Cons
The 2014 World Cup draw has been completed and the U.S. has the distinction of being placed in the Group G, the Group of Death. The U.S. team is grouped with Germany, Portugal, and Ghana.
There are pros and cons for the U.S. as they head to Brazil with an eye towards advancing beyond group play.
The road ahead for the U.S. is difficult. Germany has won the World Cup three times (1954, 1974, and 1990) and the European Championships three times (1972, 1980, and 1996). The Germans have been successful under current coach Joachim Low. Portugal has arguably the best player in the world in Cristiano Ronaldo. Ghana has defeated the U.S. in the last two World Cups.
Are there positives for the U.S. heading towards Brazil?
U.S. Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann knows Germany, having been an illustrious member of the Germany national side. If anyone can get an idea on what is necessary to overcome the Germans, Klinsmann is as good a bet as anyone.
The U.S. defeated Germany in their last meeting 4-3 on June 2, 2013. Admittedly, the German side was not full strength and the U.S. was the beneficiary of a horrible German-own goal. However, the details fade and the U.S. will most likely remember winning above all else.
Going all the way back to 2002, Germany beat the U.S. 1-0 despite a handball by German defender Torsten Frings to save a ball off the goal line.
Thus, the U.S. may not view Germany as an insurmountable opponent.
Portugal has Ronaldo. Ronaldo is a truly great player. His pace with the ball is second to none and the U.S. has not been a strong defensive team. The U.S. will need a better commitment to defending to stop Ronaldo.
Despite his standing as one of the world’s best, Ronaldo has not been overwhelmingly successful elevating Portugal to the standard expected.
Ghana has beaten the U.S. in World Cup play in 2010 (round of 16) and 2006 (group play).
Ghana is a strong opponent with an impressive record. However, if the U.S. can generate motivation for revenge and play a consistent 90 minutes, the U.S. may come out ahead.
The schedule is both good and bad. The travel for Group G is the worst among all groups.
However, the U.S. is a large country and long plane trips are not that uncommon for U.S. players.
This may be less of a detriment for the U.S. as it may be for other members of Group G.
The U.S. plays Germany last. If Germany has success in early matches, the German side may choose to rest players (or hide players nearing suspension for yellow card accumulation) in the last group game. A weaker German lineup benefits the US.
Recall the last time the US played a less than first-string German lineup? The U.S. faces a great challenge – but it is not the first time. The tournament is very strong with a great deal of depth.
Good luck to the U.S.!
Dr. William Steffen is the Chair of Sport Coaching at the United States Sports Academy. He was formerly the women’s soccer coach for nine years at the University of Oregon. He has also worked with members of the national women’s program. He has written and lectured extensively on coaching soccer. He most recently presented at the annual meeting of the National Soccer Coaches Association of American (NSCAA).