It Seems To Me. . .
World Cup draw proves difficult to U.S. team and its fans.
By Robert Wagman
(Friday, December 6, 2013) -- The United States men have been drawn into Group G along with Germany, Portugal and Ghana for next summer's World Cup in Brazil.
Some are already calling this a "group of death." That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it will be very difficult for the U.S. to advance out of the group into the Round of 16. From a travel standpoint, and for fans hoping to follow the Americans in Brazil, the draw could hardly have been worse.
If World Cup history is any guide, it takes a minimum of four points to advance to the knock-out rounds. That would mean, at the very least, that the U.S. will have come out of its three group matches with at least one victory and one draw. The Americans' initial opponent, Ghana, has been a thorn in the U.S. side, eliminating it from the last two World Cups.
In 2010, Ghana defeated the U.S. in South Africa 2-1 in extra time. Four years earlier, Ghana sent the Americans home from Germany with another 2-1 victory. This year, Ghana side, led by Schalke's attacking midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng of Germany's FC Schalke 04, is probably stronger than the 2006 or 2010 editions.
The other two teams drawn into the group, Germany and Portugal, need no introduction. Even though striker Cristiano Ronaldo was in the fold, Portugal had to go to a playoff to make it to Brazil, Though the U.S. defeated Portugal in South Korea in 2002 in what was among the biggest upsets of the competition, it will be difficult to gain a point against it this time.
Three-time champion Germany is already being talked about as a possible finalist.
A lot can happen in group play. Injuries, weather and just plain luck can play a huge role in the final outcome. But I don't think I will be wagering too much on the U.S.
"I kind of had in my stomach that we were going to get Germany," U.S. coah Jürgen Klinsmann, a former star player and coach for the Germans, said immediately after the draw. "It couldn't get any more difficult, any more challenging. But we will take it on. We're going to be prepared. We're going to be confident."
From a fan's standpoint, this draw could not have been worse. The U.S. plays its first match against Ghana in the Atlantic Ocean resort city of Natal on June 16. The next match on June 22 is in the Amazon Basin city of Manaus. The final group match on June 26 is back on the Atlantic Coast in the city of Recife.
This means a U.S. fan going from venue to venue will face a journey of some 9,000 miles. The U.S. team, which will be venturing to the venues, will log another four thousand or so miles going back and forth to São Paulo, where the team will base.
"We hit the worst of the worst," Klinsmann said on ESPN2 after the draw. "There will be some problems from an organizational standpoint. The past few days, everyone was saying, 'Anywhere, but Manaus.' Well, we got Manaus. No excuses, but obviously, a tough one."
Following the Americans will be not only a physical challenge, but an expensive one. All travel will have to be by air and getting a hotel room in Natal, and especially in Manaus, will be a difficult and costly proposition.
Could the draw have been worse for the U.S.? Sure, but not much worse. Three and out is looming and if the U.S. advances from group play, Klinsmann will have earned his $2-million-a-year salary.