U.S. faces nightmare draw in the 2014 World Cup

Posted by Doug McIntryre

American fans' greatest fears were realized within the first half-hour of Friday's FIFA World Cup draw, as the U.S. national team was placed alongside Ghana, Germany and Portugal in the toughest of the eight groups. “I kind of had in my stomach that we were going to get Germany,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann told ESPN's Jeremy Schaap afterward. “It couldn't be any more difficult, but that's what a World Cup is about. It's a real challenge, and we'll take it on.”

With the news still settling in, here are four quick thoughts.

1. This is the group of death
Will all due respect to the foursome containing Spain, the Netherlands, Chile and Australia, none is more daunting than the Yanks' Group G. All four squads made the knockout stage four years ago in South Africa. In Brazil, two are guaranteed to miss out on the second round, with the U.S. the leading candidate to go home early. The Americans' best chance could rest on Germany beating Portugal in the opener, with the hope that they can steal a point against Die Mannschaft -- Jurgen Klinsmann's home nation -- in the final first-round match, by which time Germany could already have qualified for the round of 16. Of course, the Stars and Stripes also need a good result in their first game, which is why...

2. The opener against Ghana will be key for the Americans
The Black Stars have been the Americans' bogey team on the global stage, eliminating them from the past two World Cups (and at the U-20 World Cup last summer). But Ghana's duo of Champions League-bred stars -- Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari -- are aging, and the U.S. is due. Playing them first, and having six months to prepare for that match this time around, could help. “After two losses,” Klinsmann said, “It's about time we beat them.” Everything his team does between now and June 16 will be aimed at accomplishing that.

3. The U.S. will be ready for Germany
Klinsmann is a talented motivator, and although he was wise not to give the German press anything that might make the front pages of tomorrow's newspapers, you can believe he'll have his team ready to take on the Germans. It will be a special match not only for the U.S. boss but for the many German-born and/or raised players on the squad, including projected starters Fabian Johnson and Jermaine Jones. Still, playing the top team in the group just four days after a grueling trip to Amazonian outpost Manaus, where the Yanks meet Portugal in their second group game, won't make what's sure to be a tough test any easier.

4. Beware Ronaldo
With most of the storylines centered on Germany and Ghana, Portugal may have been overlooked -- that's what happens when you get the group of death. The truth is that Portugal is a beatable foe for the U.S., but only if the Yanks can find a way to contain superstar forward Cristiano Ronaldo. Stopping him will be easier said than done, however. If he's in the mood, CR7 can win any match on his own, as we saw in the second leg of Portugal's playoff series with Sweden last month. Hopefully, the Yanks will catch him on an off day.

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