Posted December 06, 2013

Tough Road Ahead: Three Thoughts on the World Cup draw

2014 World Cup, Grant Wahl, International Soccer, U.S. men's national team, U.S. Soccer
Michael Bradley, Tim Howard

Michael Bradley and Tim Howard have a tough road ahead. (Moises Castillo/AP)

COSTA DO SAUÍPE, Brazil — Three quick thoughts on the World Cup draw:

• The U.S. got about the worst draw imaginable. The U.S. drew three-time world champion Germany, nemesis Ghana (which has eliminated the U.S. in the last two World Cups) and Portugal (featuring superstar Cristiano Ronaldo) in the Americans’ opening-round group for next year’s World Cup. Making things worse, the U.S. drew the most difficult travel distance possible: a whopping 8,866 miles round-trip with games in Natal, Manaus and Recife. The one thing U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann told me was that he didn’t want to play in the Amazonian outpost of Manaus—and now that’s exactly what will happen. Easily the toughest U.S. World Cup draw ever.

• We knew the draw would throw up harder and easier groups, and that happened. The three toughest groups are Group G (USA, Germany, Portugal, Ghana), Group B (Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia) and Group D (Uruguay, England, Italy, Costa Rica). The easiest? Try Group E (Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras), Group A (Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon) and Group H (Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea).

• The knockout round matchups are important too. If the top seeds win their groups, one side of bracket would be Brazil, Colombia, Switzerland and Germany, while the other side would be Spain, Uruguay, Argentina and Belgium. If the U.S. were to advance to the Round of 16 from its difficult group, the Americans would face an opponent from Group H (Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea). If there’s one silver lining from today, that might be it (but barely).

177 comments
AfricanPride
AfricanPride

1.  Well you guys can blurb about how you're gonna beat Ghana. But what you fail to realize is the strength of this Ghana side that has beaten you twice already. It's gonna be a slum dung. 3rd time lucky. Key to Ghana's success in soccer = underdog status. You underrate them at your own peril. 


2. Ghana is a far better side than 2006 and 2010. And this is no joke. There is more depth now. I fear for our opponents. And they are young, quite skillful and ready to make a point. Write them off at your own peril. 


3. Let me tell you guys a little history. Germany was the finest attacking team in 2010. But Ghana lost to Germany 1:0 in 2010. Germany beat the likes of England 4:1, Argentina 4:0, Australia 4:0. Draw your own conclusions. We have the panacea to the German machine. 


4. I know the key weakness in Ghana's team but I ain't telling ya. cos that will be sacrilege. 


5. Ghana's record is impressive so far. 2006 = Second round. 2010 = Quarter finals (But for Suarez). The team is quite hungry. I know one of the teams in the group will taste the venom and will be shaken for many years. You want to gauge the hunger of this team? Go and ask Egypt who were beaten 6:1. 


6. Why did the USA tie their destiny to the Germans? A German at the helm affairs at the USMNT? Are you guys serious? German edge over Ghana is waning by the years and in 2014, that project should see completion. the USA will play like the Germans in many way. Why? Because your manager is German. So you see? the USA is seriously trapped. 


7. Ghana's strength is the midfield. Hopefully, we can get a man to track C.Ronaldo for 90 mins. And hope you guys remember Asamoah Gyan? That penalty miss against Uruguay will be atoned for. Call it a mission within the mission. 


8. Sorry guys but Portugal has never played Ghana before. Those permutations based on FIFA ranking doesn't really matter here. That is a clean slate. And the underdogs are ready to write history. 


9. Ghana is the dark horse in group G. 

thebigdawg3
thebigdawg3

Using the FIFA World Rankings and adding up the scores (where low score equals strongest group) here is the rankings of each group (strongest to weakest):


Group G: Total Points = 45 (Average world rank of each team in group = 11th)

Group D: 57 (14th)

Group C: 81 (20th)

Group B: 84 (21st)

Group E: 91 (23rd)

Group A: 97 (24th)

Group F: 105 (26th)

Group H: 113 (28th)


So just how much more stronger is Group G versus Group's A, F and H?  Well, according to FIFA, the average world ranking of the teams in Group G is 11th.  The average world rankings of the teams in group's A, F and H are 24th, 26th and 28th.  Once again, FIFA proves that it is run by a bunch of frickin morons!  

thebigdawg3
thebigdawg3

Assuming we can finish second in our group, most likely we'd be facing Belgium!  Tough opponent, but not unbeatable!  Go USA.

Terpmaniac
Terpmaniac

Its soccer for gods sake. WHO THE HELL CARES!

joe6647
joe6647

Mexico is out in the first KO stage even if they advance out of the group.


Assuming they come in 2nd place in their group behind Brazil, theyll face the group B winner (most likely Spain)

MattGuschwan
MattGuschwan

I assumed FIFA would hand the trophy to Brazil, but if they beat Netherlands or  Spain, Uruguay or England, Germany and then Italy or Spain or Argentina in the final, they will have earned it, even if they do get some favorable officiating and an extra day of rest along the way.

M20
M20

Grant, how do you figure Group A is easier than Group F? Brazil is tougher than Argentina, Mexico is much better than Iran, and Cameroon is better than Nigeria (traditionally that might not have been the case, but compare their current rosters and it's pretty clear). Bosnia and Croatia is a toss up. Group A isn't easier than Group F on any front.

KedOut
KedOut

Germany and Portugal clearly favorites.

I don't think USA have a good enough time to beat Portugal.


Portugal struggled on the qualifyings as they did on the last world and european cups and still went to the Knockouts for the past 5 competitions.


Plus, Portugal was in the "death group" on Euro 2012 with Germany Netherlands and Denmark and lost on the semifinal with Spain on the penalties...

Listening
Listening

Group H is a laughing stock.

DSM
DSM

In general, I find it odd that the WC draw is not based much more on FIFA's own rankings--they are flawed, but seem much more likely to create across the board fairness. 

shaybeezy
shaybeezy

I wish people would start ignoring Fifa rankings, Spain, Germany and Argentina are fine but this bizarre system ranks average sides like Portugal and Uruguay above Brazil.. it's due to Brazil not playing enough competitive games because they're hosts and don't need to go through a  qualifying process.

The ranking system is totally flawed, I personally don't think England's group is that bad, Italy are favourites, but Uruguay have done nothing in the last two years to suggest they're anywhere near a top 10 side, they struggled through qualifying and had to beat mighty Jordan to make it, does anyone seriously believe that Uruguay are better than Ukraine who finished below Englad in qualifying? There's teams like Poland and Sweden who failed to qualify from Europe who could comfortably beat teams like Costa Rica.


England's problem is a lack of depth and a negative coach in Hodgson,  Jack Wilshere has had fantastic games against Brazil and was superb for Arsenal at the Camp Nou but he always picks up injuries, when he's fully fit the midfield looks dynamic, when he's not there then England's midfield is pedestrain.  I also don't get all the hype over Andros Townsend, he's managed one goal and one assist for Tottenham, whereas Ravel Morrison playing for a really bad West Ham side looks like an infinitely superior player but he can't seem to get anywhere near the Englad first team, Ross Barkley is another younger player who looks a far better prospect than Townsend.


Even when it comes to forwards, Rooney and Sturridge have to play, but Sturridge always gets injuries while on England duty and Wellbeck is okay but after that... again why can't Hodgson take a gamble on a kid like Berahino from West Brom as backup for Sturridge, otherwise what's the point of having a under 21 side and then not promoting those guys

RickPotts
RickPotts

Well, looks like everybody on this page has it all figured out already.  Hell, we don't even have to play the games.  Lets just award the trophy now........

MarkBaird
MarkBaird

We go to the World Cup for one reason to win it all. And that would require us playing the best teams in the world. So let's get rid of a few right away. No problem!

therednorth1
therednorth1

So, let's have some prediction fun, since everyone likes making them.

Who makes it out of the group stages?

I'll start.  (In order of top seed, second seed)

Group A: Brazil, Croatia
Group B: Spain, Netherlands
Group C: Japan, Ivory Coast
Group D: Uruguay, England
Group E: Ecuador, Switzerland
Group F: Argentina, Nigeria
Group G: Germany, USA
Group H: Russia, South Korea

cbarlow
cbarlow

The French must be over the moon right now.  Group H is a joke, and the joke is on FIFA and its ranking system.  Germany is now virtually guaranteed to reach the semi-final without playing any semi-competitive opponent (Portugal is a one man team; France is not a problem at all for a potential quarter-final) to play against Brazil (which also will face no semi-competitive opponent).  This means we pretty much know at least which one side will play for the final.

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

Tough, indeed. I don't see us getting out of the group unless Ronaldo is off his game and we beat Portugal. Because even if we beat Ghana, who has our number for some reason, Germany will be almost impossible.  Yikes. And I don't see the English doing much better. Uruguay will be a tough out with Suarez, and Italy is always a threat. Yikes again. Well, lads, we'll still be pulling for you. 

retro-grouch
retro-grouch

Why do guys like Klinsmann and the England manager make negative comments about venues before the draw?   Do they think that FIFA is going to change the drawing process?


If not aren't they just hurting their own players and helping the other team?

retro-grouch
retro-grouch

It's not the end of the world.  Germany and Ghana won't have huge advantages in the North East (Pernambuco & Natal) and I don't see Portugal rockin' Manaus.


If they're that worried about it they could always train in South Florida.

Gbone1127
Gbone1127

We agree on one thing Spain= Germany. Pick your poison, your gonna die either way.
Tell me one accomplishment that the Netherlands has done since the 2010 world cup. Exiting in the group stages in Euro 2012..... Right I forgot losing at the hands of Portugal and Denmark who aren't even there. I don't care if Portugal didn't win their group. Ask anyone Maybe besides Messi playing in South America and i guarantee you it's Ronaldo. The man takes over a game. You don't mark him, you pray you can contain him and provide damage control. No one on the dutch roster scares me like he does. So if anything Netherlands = Portugal, and that might even be a stretch. And the fact that you have Chile providing more of a scare than Ghana is absolutely fallacy. Yes it's in South America. That doesn't mean the South American teams are playing a different game. Im not even going to go back to 06. Uruguay didin't beat Ghana, Ghana beat themselves. They should've advanced to the final 4, everyone in the world knows that. I don't remember chile doing anything special in 2010 or the lead up to this world cup. Yes it was in Africa and I know that counts for something. But Ghana has class and it needs to be respected in the eyes of World Soccer. So 

Spain = Germany, 
Netherlands <, = Portugal
Ghana > Chile

retro-grouch
retro-grouch

Christiano Ronaldo is okay until he gets marked closely, at which point he resorts to flopping and whining.  This attribute isn't exactly uncommon but it is unseemly for anyone who might otherwise be considered a great player.

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

@Terpmaniac


Nearly half of planet's human population, actually.


Cue everyone laughing out loud at the stupid American with his head up his ***.

HollisWood
HollisWood

Over 1 billion people watched the the final 4 years ago. In all likelihood, more will watch this time around.

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

@joe6647


Not exactly a bold prediction.  Mexico *always* gets eliminated in the second round.  iirc, they actually hold the record for it.

HollisWood
HollisWood

I don't necessarily agree. H is weak and there are serious unbalanced groups as M20 states. Belgium is a probably a once (or twice) in a generation team....so many of their top players are in EPL or Bundesliga. E actually has balance. 

In Group E, there are some strong players on Ecuador. France, while under performing in the qualifiers (and last world cup), is traditionally strong With Lloris in goal, Ribery and Benzema attacking, anyone who pays attention knows France cannot be overlooked. Honestly, I don't know much about the Swiss...

M20
M20

@Listening Group E is too. Sad that the groups in such a strong WC turned out so unbalanced.

HollisWood
HollisWood

I don't think England is very good. I think they have some strong individual players up front -- Rooney, Welbeck, Sturridge. Townsend is in an up-an-comer as is Wilshere. The flip side is the defenders are underwhelming. And while I like Lampard and Gerrard; they're on the backside of their career.  Regardless of the draw, I believe England would have struggled to get into the knockout stage.

HerschelAnderton
HerschelAnderton

@RickPotts you mean: "...let's just not award it to the US."  

sure.  that's reasonable.  do you not agree?

HerschelAnderton
HerschelAnderton

@MarkBaird i appreciate the positive but insane attitude.  but, it's still absolutely and totally insane.

SHOGUN
SHOGUN

prediction - very few of yours are right.

SHOGUN
SHOGUN

@cbarlow Netherlands, Italy, Chile, Uruguay...no semi-competitive opponent for Brazil? Do you even watch soccer?

cbarlow
cbarlow

Christiano Ronaldo is never off.  Portugal's weak link is the inability to service him.  If you want to beat Portugal, you make sure you win the midfield battle.  You can even allow Ronaldo to be left alone, as long as you force him to play central striker.  Michael Bradley will be our key.

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

Oh, by the way, all this depends on the stadiums actually being ready.

EnashWaca
EnashWaca

Because nobody understands why they made a World Cup site in the middle of the jungle when there were plenty of better options in Brazil.

DiogoSousa
DiogoSousa

@retro-grouch Hey pal Portugal discovered Brazil, i guess we will be fine in every place we play :D

SHOGUN
SHOGUN

@Gbone1127 Chile have Arturo Vidal, who is one of the best midfielders in the world right now. Not to mention Alexis Sanchez who has been lighting it up for Barcelona (one of the best teams in the world). So, if you're going to base your point about Portugal being formidable based on one player, the same should be said of Chile - since Vidal is playing incredible right now. This doesn't even factor in the other strong players they have throughout their team, who play in top leagues in Europe. While Ghana does have a good squad, it does not have one player that can be considered close to world-class.

LeafsnJays
LeafsnJays

@Gbone1127 disagree, but I see what you're saying. On the other hand: 1) Portugal usually disappoints in major competitions and yes, Ronaldo can take over a game, but he also can be frustratingly absent; 2) I expect all the South American sides to have a "home field" advantage, I actually am skeptical that the Dutch will advance from their group. We often see "home" teams performing above expectation in these tournaments (think of 2002). 3) The US has major motivation against Ghana. Revenge factor.


"Uruguay didn't beat Ghana, Ghana beat themselves." I agree, but I would prefer to draw a team that might beat themselves than teams that historically have the ability to bring their top performances consistently. 

EnashWaca
EnashWaca

Portugal has other good players too.  It's not just about CR7

ceejaysquared
ceejaysquared

@leehwgoc @Terpmaniac Please forgive him. His username reveals his handicap -- an allegiance to an insolvent, peripatetic, classless American institution pretending to be a university.  

RickPotts
RickPotts

Oh, and you know which are "right"....please.

M20
M20

@EnashWaca Seriously. I understand wanting to give something to that part of the country, but it just wasn't a good idea. That stadium will be half empty for the Croatia-Cameroon match.

K-odum
K-odum

muntari- ac milan, asamoah-juventus, essein- chelsea,kevin boateng- schalke, ayew- marsielle all champion league teams what world class are you talking about.Can you mention five players in the midfield of portugal and the USA teams that will equate to these five players

Gbone1127
Gbone1127

@LeafsnJays @Gbone1127 Dude, in all honestly, much respect. I just hate to see these ignorant people chime in with comments about soccer who are just casual observers. As a US fan I'm a little bitter with the lack of respect we get. You're spot on with everything you say. It's gonna be a wild four weeks, and I'm really looking forward to it.  

cbarlow
cbarlow

Yes, but CR7 is the one who put the ball into the net.  Denying service to him Portugal will be useless.  US needs to be very good at defensive midfield battle.


SHOGUN
SHOGUN

@therednorth1 @SHOGUN @RickPotts they were in a group with spain...fault them for coming second? They also demolished ukraine in the second leg, deserving to go through. I don't even like them - but they have a strong team. Better than Ecuador and Switzerland.

SHOGUN
SHOGUN

@RickPotts I can tell you that Italy, Colombia, France and Belgium will come out of their groups...to think they won't is absurd. 

SHOGUN
SHOGUN

@K-odum LOL...you think those guys are world class? Dude, do you watch soccer? being a member of a team in the champions league does not make you a world class player...there are very few world class players...ibrahimovic, cavani, suarez, messi, ronaldo, vidal...those losers you mentioned above are in a class that is at least 10 levels below any of the few players I just mentioned. I never said Portugal or the USA have world class players, but since you brought up Portugal's midfield, Joao Moutinho is better than any of the players you mentioned. Justification? Look up how much Monaco payed for him. And how much Tottenham was willing to pay for him. Muntari world class - LOLOLOL

brs386
brs386

Portugal disappoints in major competitions?


2004: Euro Cup final


2006: 4th Place finish at the World Cup


2008: Eliminated in knock-out round by finalists Germany


2010: Eliminated in second round by eventual champion Spain


2012: Euro Cup Semi Finals loss in penalty shoot-out to eventual champion Spain