Friday’s World Cup draw may spell a short stay for the United States Men’s National Team in Brazil next summer.
The U.S., which entered the draw ranked 14th in the latest FIFA rankings, was paired with perennial powerhouse Germany, fifth-ranked Portugal and recent tournament nemesis Ghana in Group G, considered by many to be the “Group of Death” shortly after the draw.
Making matters worse, the U.S. will have to travel over 9,000 miles between its Group stage destinations. The Nats’ first match will pit them against Ghana, which eliminated them in 2006 and 2010, on Jun. 16 in Natal. From there, they ll play Portugal on Jun. 22 in Manaus, a city located in the Amazon rain forest. The U.S. will wrap up Group play against Germany on Jun. 26 in Recife.
“I kind of had in my stomach that we were going to get Germany,” said U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who played for Die Mannschaft’s 1990 World Cup championship team, told ESPNFC.com. “Obviously, it’s one of the most difficult groups in the whole draw, having Portugal with Cristiano Ronaldo and then Ghana, who has a history with the United States. It couldn’t get any more difficult or any bigger.”
The U.S. played Germany in the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals, where it suffered a heart-breaking 1-0 defeat despite suspicious non-call for a hand ball on Torsten Frings, whose left hand kept Gregg Berhalter’s effort out of the net. The Americans also fell 2-0 to Germany in the group stage of the 1998 World Cup.
Portugal and the U.S. also met in the 2002 World Cup, where the Americans upset the European powerhouse 3-2 en route to its surprise quarterfinal run at Japan/Korea.
Ghana ushered the U.S. out of its last two World Cup appearances. In 2006, the U.S. fell 2-1 in its Group stage finale, and suffered a similar fate, albeit in overtime, in the round of 16 during the 2010 tournament.
Additionally, the U.S. has never advanced out of the group stage in consecutive tournaments. It won its group in 2010, while failing to get out of its group in 2006.
Klinsmann acknowledged the stern test ahead, but remains optimistic about the U.S.’s chances in Brazil.
“But that’s what a World Cup is about,” Kilnsmann said. “It’s a real challenge. And we’ll take it. We’ll take it on, and hopefully we’re going to surprise some people there.”
The remaining groups are as follows:
Group A—Brazil, Cameroon, Croatia, Mexico;
Group B—Australia, Chile, Netherlands, Spain;
Group C—Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan;
Group D—Costa Rica, England, Italy, Uruguay;
Group E—Ecuador, France, Honduras, Switzerland;
Group F—Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria;
Group H—Algeria, Belgium, Russia, South Korea.