20 Teams The USMNT Wants To Avoid In The 2014 World Cup Draw
10 Teams The USMNT Wants To Avoid In The 2014 World Cup Draw
Well, it’s finally over. After two long, yet exciting years, the qualification process for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil has come to an end, and we finally have set in stone the 32 teams that will be playing for a world championship next summer. Now that the field is decided, the next step in the process is the World Cup Draw on December 6.
The draw is one of the most exciting events on the soccer calendar, as it makes the World Cup come alive and feel inevitable. However, it’s also as tense and strenuous as the games themselves for players, coaches and especially fans. The draw was quite kind to the U.S. Men’s National Team four years ago, giving them a relatively easy group to get out of. Despite that, they just barely escaped with one of the most memorable goals in U.S. soccer history. The U.S. will be hoping for similar fortune this time around, but there are no guarantees and there is a laundry list of nations the U.S. would prefer not to see in their group.
The Americans know they won’t be paired up with any other CONCACAF nations or the four squads coming out of Asia, which is unfortunate as those are generally teams the U.S. would be able to handle. There are multiple teams that would make it difficult for the Americans advance out of group play even if they were to quality soccer. Here are the top 10 teams that U.S. is dreading being grouped with in the 2014 World Cup:
Ecuador generally doesn't play well away from home, but with the tournament on South American soil, they could have an advantage. As we'll see later on this list, the U.S. would be wise to avoid Ecuador and other South American nations for that reason.
The U.S. can probably handle Cameroon, but they'd prefer not to go up against Samuel Eto'o. Eto'o is still one of the top strikes in the world, and a moment of brilliance from him against a questionable American back line could prove troublesome for the U.S.
France barely made the tournament, but now that they're in it, they will be a team to be reckoned with. The U.S. may not want to see a European power like the French in their group when there are weaker sides they would prefer to face.
Colombia has a history of underperforming in the World Cup, but with this tournament being played close to home on South American soil, things could be different. The U.S. had an epic upset of Colombia back in 1994, which was helped by a lucky goal, and the Americans might not have that good karma if the two teams faced off in this World Cup.
The U.S. had a miraculous comeback in a friendly against Bosnia a few months back, and if the Bosnians had a second chance at the Americans they would gladly take it and be looking for pay back, which is something the U.S. would like to avoid.
The Swiss are far from the most intimidating team in this year's field, but they are smart, organized, and very good tactically. They will be a tough team for the U.S. to breakthrough offensively, much like the Austrian team they recently lost to in a friendly. A positive result would be possible, but a 1-0 loss would be the most likely outcome, which could be back breaking for the Americans.
The Nigerians are unpredictable, and that's what makes them dangerous. There is a lot of talent on their roster and while they crashed and burned at the last World Cup, they are the reigning African champions. Moreover, the U.S. has trouble tactically when they face African nations, and Nigeria is no exception.
England isn't a feared nation heading into the World Cup, but the U.S. was lucky to get a draw with them four years ago in the 2010 World Cup, and playing them is still like a little brother trying to beat his big brother. It was fascinating to watch the two teams meet four years ago considering the history the two nations have with one another, but that's not something the U.S. wants to repeat.
Chile has questionable defense, but they know how to score the ball, and the Americans don't necessarily want to play a team that's going to force them to go up and down the field and force them into a shootout, especially when it's a South American team that's playing on South American soil. The U.S. could get a result against Chile, but it would be an exhausting match for them to play, which could hinder them the rest of the tournament.
Uruguay had a great performance at the 2010 World Cup, and they could do even better this time around, as they'll be playing on South American soil. This team is potentially very dangerous, and the Americans don't want to get in their way.
The U.S. pulled off one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history against Portugal back in 2002. Although Portugal barely qualified for the tournament, they are not a team the U.S. wants to play. The Americans are a bit shaky on the back line, and outside of DaMarcus Beasley, they’re still fairly inexperienced defensively. They’d like to avoid having to stop one of the best players in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo, for 90 minutes.
Belgium would actually be one of the weaker seeded teams the Americans could get matched up with, at least compared to the traditional soccer powers they could face. But, the U.S. had all sorts of problems against Belgium last May in a 4-2 loss, and while the U.S. has made a lot of progress since then, it would still be difficult for them to get a different result next summer. Belgium is an up and coming team with a ton of talent, and the Americans don’t want to be standing in their way when they begin their World Cup run.
Few teams anywhere in the world possess the technical ability of Argentina, and even on their best day, the Americans would have a tough time getting a positive result against Lionel Messi and company. Four years ago, the U.S. earned one point in a draw against group favorite England, and that point was critical in being able to advance. But in a group with Argentina, the Americans probably won’t be able to get a point against the group favorite, which will hurt their chances of advancing.
7. Ivory Coast
The Ivory Coast has underperformed in recent World Cups, but this is the last chance for an incredibly talented corps of players to do some damage. The U.S. doesn’t want to see them in their group just in case this is the year the Elephants decide to play up to their potential in a major tournament. Even for a big and physical defender like Omar Gonzalez, forward Didier Drogba is a tough player to stop for 90 minutes, and he’s probably among a handful of players in the World Cup that the U.S. would prefer to not face until the late stages of the tournament. The U.S. facing the Ivory Coast would be one of the more intriguing matchups of the first round if it came to fruition, but the Elephants are a team with incredible talent that would strike fear in the Americans and their fans.
Despite winning a world championship in 2006, the Italians are not one of the eight seeded teams in this tournament, which means their group will be one of the toughest to advance out of. The U.S. beat Italy the last time the two nations met in February 2012, but the Italian team that will show up in Brazil next summer is going to be a lot tougher to beat and will be incredibly tough to break down and score against. If the U.S. finds itself in a group with Italy, they won’t be favored to advance to the knockout stage.
The U.S. knows it can beat Spain, having done so in the semifinals of the 2009 Confederations Cup. Spain did get off to a sluggish start in the 2010 World Cup before winning it all, but that doesn’t mean the Americans want to be paired up with the top-ranked team in the world next summer. Despite all the progress the U.S. has made in the past year, they may be a little out of their league against the Spaniards, and not only would they be likely to lose, but it could hurt their goal differential and negatively impact their chances of moving past the group stage if things got out of hand.
If the U.S. gets paired up with Brazil, they’d likely play the opening match of the tournament against the host nation. While that may seem exciting and create incredible amounts of hype and buildup for the next six months, it’s probably not a recipe for success. Although there would be immense amounts of pressure on the Brazilian team in that game and the tournament in general, they’re certainly capable of handling it and responding with a fury of goals at the expense of the U.S. team. It’s impossible to imagine Brazil not advancing out of the group stage, giving the U.S. a one in three chance of being the other team to advance out of the group if they’re matched up with Brazil. Those are not good odds for the Americans.
This is the kind of matchup that the soccer Gods love to create with the World Cup draw as it would force U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann to face the country he both played for and coached. No one’s saying Klinsmann would have a conflict of interest, but it would definitely create a complex state of emotions for the U.S. coach and create a distraction that the Americans don’t need heading into a World Cup. On top of that, Germany is one of the top teams in the world, and even though the Americans beat them earlier this year, it would be tough to replicate that result in a World Cup match.
2. The Netherlands
It’s a crime that Holland isn’t one of the eight seeded teams in the tournament, and being put in a group with them is essentially being put in a group with two seeded teams. It would be a strong indication that four years of hard work are about to go down the drain in a hurry. The Dutch were finalists at the last World Cup, and they have enough quality to make another deep run this time around, especially with feared striker Robin van Persie leading the way. If the U.S. gets matched up with the Netherlands along with any of the other seeded teams on this list like Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Germany or Belgium, their World Cup hopes could be doomed before the tournament even begins.
After the Black Stars knocked the U.S. out of the last two World Cups, Ghana may be the last team the Americans want to see in their group. Even former American coach Bob Bradley is still having issues with Ghana, who seems to have the Americans’ number. History aside, Ghana has phenomenal amounts of athleticism and should be considered a threat to not only get out of the group stage, but advance deep into the tournament. Having to face a seeded team, a second European team and Ghana would put the U.S. in as difficult a group as is imaginable, and considering their past troubles with the Black Stars, that’s the worst-case scenario for the Americans.
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