U.S. drawn into difficult group for World Cup 2014

Posted by John Carr

The draw for the 20th FIFA World Cup was held Friday in Brazil, as the 32 teams were drawn into eight groups of four. The tournament begins June 12 with Brazil-Croatia and ends with the final on July 13. All games are on ESPN networks.

Fans of the United States likely came away from Friday’s draw nervous about the Americans' chances in Brazil next summer as the U.S. finds itself matched up with Germany, Portugal and Ghana in Group G.

ESPN's Soccer Power Index rates Group G the second-toughest group and gives the United States a 39 percent chance to reach the knockout round, which is only slightly worse than the average U.S. chances before the draw (41 percent).

The Americans will open on June 16 in Natal against Ghana.

Ghana is a familiar foe for the Americans, who have not had success against the African nation in previous World Cup meetings. This will be the third straight World Cup in which the Americans will face Ghana, with each of the previous two meetings being U.S. losses.

The U.S.’s second game is against Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal on June 22 in the Amazon rain-forest city Manaus.

The last time Portugal and the U.S. faced each other was in the 2002 World Cup Group Stage where the U.S. defeated the Seleção 3-2.

Portugal qualified for the 2014 World Cup through the UEFA playoffs, after a 4-2 aggregate win over Sweden. All four of their goals in the playoff came through Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored (8) or assisted (2) 10 of Portugal’s 24 goals overall in qualification.

Germany and the U.S. will close out group play on June 26 in Recife.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsman is 1-0 against his home nation of Germany, a 4-3 Friendly win in June. Overall, the U.S. is 3-6-0 against the Germans, who are currently ranked fourth in the SPI rankings and have three World Cup titles.

Germany scored more goals than any other European team during the qualification campaign (36). Mesut Özil scored the most goals by a midfielder during UEFA qualification (8) and only João Moutinho (52) created more chances than the German (43).

Mexico finds itself with somewhat better fortune in Group A, despite being matched up with host Brazil. SPI gives Mexico a 45.3 percent chance of advancing from Group A, where they will also see Croatia and Cameroon. Going into the draw, Mexico’s average chances of advancing were 22.4 percent, according to SPI.

El Tri is 10-22-6 all-time against Brazil, with their most recent meeting being in the 2013 Confederations Cup Group Stage, a 2-0 loss. Mexico has played Brazil three times in the World Cup ('62, '54, '50), all in the Group Stage and all losses.

Mexico has faced Croatia once in the World Cup, a 1-0 win for El Tri in the 2002 Group Stage.

Group of Death Notes:

• According to the Soccer Power Index, The Group of Death has to be Group D, which has the highest average SPI rank at 14.0.

• Group D is also the only group with multiple World Cup-winning countries, with seven among the group: England – 1966; Uruguay - 1930 & 1950; Italy - 1934, 1938, 1982 & 2006.

• Italy and Uruguay are grouped together for the second time in World Cup history. They combined to win the first four World Cups.

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