While many Americans are lamenting the United States’ 2014 World Cup prospects in a brutal group alongside Germany, Portugal and Ghana, there is another way to perceive what awaits the U.S. in Brazil. It will not be easy, but the U.S. has a huge opportunity to prove itself on the world’s biggest stage in one of the game’s iconic countries.
Making their seventh-straight appearance at soccer’s global showcase, the Americans were drawn Friday into Group G and will open on June 16 in Natal against Ghana, which eliminated the U.S. at both the 2006 and 2010 tournaments. This is a huge chance at redemption right out of the gate. A win against its recent historical nemesis would give the U.S. a lot of momentum going forward in the group.
The U.S. then meets Portugal and 2008 FIFA Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo on June 22 in the Amazon rain forest city of Manaus, a location nearly all sides were hoping to avoid. Here, the Americans will have another opportunity to prove themselves against one of the premiere players and countries in the world.
The Americans close group play on June 26 in Recife against Germany, the mother country of U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who played for Die Mannschaft’s 1990 World Cup championship team. He also coached his native country to third place in the 2006 tournament. Germany, which defeated the U.S. 1-0 in the 2002 quarterfinal, is coached by Joachim Loew, a former assistant of Klinsmann’s. Perhaps the U.S. coach’s knowledge of Germany’s style could improve their chances.
In addition to tough competition, the U.S. will also have to make some arduous journeys just to get to the game sites. The Americans will be based in Sao Paulo and face trips of 1,436 miles to Natal, 1,832 miles to Manaus and 1,321 miles to Recife.
Ranked 14th in the world, the U.S. definitely has a difficult path to the knockout rounds. Second-ranked Germany and fifth-ranked Portugal are the favorites to advance from the group, and Ghana’s history of tormenting the Americans is well-documented.
But like the players representing the country on the pitch, it’s best to look at the tough draw as a great opportunity for the U.S. to show the world that it’s ready to become a global force to be reckoned with in the sport. After all, the U.S. is “Home of the Brave,” right?
There’s no doubt the U.S. players echo Klinsmann in embracing the challenging draw. “But that’s what a World Cup is about,” he said to the media. “It’s a real challenge. And we’ll take it. We’ll take it on, and hopefully we’re going to surprise some people there.”
And indeed they might. Sure, it’s a difficult draw for the U.S., but one they can get through if they play well. The opportunity is there for the taking. If you want to be one of the giants in the game, you have to take a few down along the way. The 2014 World Cup represents what could be the Americans’ best-ever opportunity to elevate their global standing closer to that of the world’s elite sides.