In this Nov. 19, 2013 file photo, the United States national soccer team poses prior to the start their friendly soccer match between Austria and the United States in Vienna, Austria. Background from left: Omar Gonzalez, Tim Howard, Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, Michael Bradley and Brek Shea. Foreground from left: Jermaine Jones, DaMarcus Beasley, Alejandro Bedoya, Aron Johannsson and Jozy Altidore.
AP Photo/Hans Punz, File

The 2014 FIFA World Cup draw on Friday, Dec. 6 posed serious challenges for the four CONCACAF teams that will play in Brazil come June 12. The 32 teams were placed in eight groups of four for their preliminary games, from which the two best from each of the groups will move to the second round, the start of the single defeat exit stage.

CONCACAF first-place finisher USA will compete in Group G, which seems to be this tournament’s group of death as it will tangle with Ghana, Portugal and Germany. Second-place finisher Costa Rica will play in Group D against Uruguay, England and Italy. Honduras, which finished third in the region to get the last automatic berth, is in Group E to tangle with Switzerland, Ecuador and France. Mexico, which won the fourth play-in spot after defeating New Zealand, will take on Brazil, Croatia and Cameroon. In this column, a look at the USA’s group.

Of the four regional teams, the U. S. undoubtedly has the toughest road to the second round, and American coach Jurgen Klinsmann, a veteran World Cup winner (1990) and coach with his native Germany knows all too well about World Cup play. “Obviously it’s one of the most difficult groups in the whole draw,” U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann told ESPN. “Having Portugal with Cristiano Ronaldo and then Ghana, who has a history with the U.S., it couldn’t get any more difficult or any bigger. But that’s what a World Cup is about. It’s a real challenge, and we’ll take it.”

The U. S. A., which will be based in Sau Paulo, plays its first game versus Ghana (June 16), which eliminated it the last two World Cups (2006, 2010) and is making its third consecutive Word Cup appearance. U.S. goal keeper Tim Howard remembers the defeats all too well. “I think the memory will still be very fresh of the loss in the Round of 16 in 2010,” Howard told USsoccer.com.”I think that will help us more than it will them. We’re a much stronger team than we were, and they’ll know that going into the game. We’ll look to set that result right.” Ghana is fast, physical, very skilful and has the mental edge on the USA; this team is a bit too much for the USA.

In Germany (June 26), the U. S. has a foe that has won the World Cup three times and has beaten the U. S. in the two previous tournaments (1998, 2002). In 2002, it was in the quarterfinal stage when the U. S. should have gotten the call against Germany for a hand-ball infraction on the goal line that would have given the USA a penalty and possibly a semifinal appearance, but that is now history. This German team will match the USA work rate and is much better than the 2002 outfit; it will pose a major problem for the Americans.

Portugal (June 22) was shocked by the U.S. in 2002 when the Americans came away with a 3-2 advantage in their opening game. The USA went on to make its first and only quarterfinal appearance in that tournament.

United States national soccer team goalkeeper Tim Howard makes a save during their World Cup training camp.
AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File

This time around, Portugal has one of the most dangerous players in the world and a player currently in good form in Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo, whom many consider the best player in the world at the moment. Ronaldo will pose problems for a USA defense that is still trying to come into its own.

Said USSF president Sunil Gulati in a statement: “We’ve had a very, very good two years; the best two years in our history. It’s a tough group, but they are all tough groups at some level. If you want to advance in the World Cup, you have to beat some good teams.”

Gulati is correct when he says that to be successful in the World Cup you have to beat good teams, problem for Gulati and the Americans, they are in a group with teams the has the USA’s number. The Americans just don’t have enough to get out of this group.

The World Cup Groups:

Group A is Brazil, Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon; Group B has Spain, Netherlands, Chile and Australia; Group C consists of Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan; Group D will see Uruguay, Costa Rica, England and Italy battle; Group E has Switzerland, Ecuador, France and Honduras; Group F is Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria; Group G is made up of Germany, Portugal, Ghana and the USA; while Group H has Belgium, Algeria, Russia and Korea Republic.

In this Nov. 19, 2013 file photo, Ghana soccer team poses prior to the start the World Cup qualifying soccer match between Egypt and Ghana at the Air Defense Stadium in Cairo, Egypt. Background from left: Kwadwo Asamoah, Michael Essien, Rashid Sumaila, Fatau Dauda, André Ayew and Jerry Akaminko. Foreground from left: Asamoah Gyan, Harrison Afful, Daniel Opare, Majeed Waris and Sulley Muntari.
AP Photo/Ahmed Gomaa, File

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