The last year has been quite remarkable for U.S. soccer as the national team has gone 16-4-3, won the CONCACAF Gold Cup, qualified for the 2014 World Cup and adapted to the free-flowing style that head coach Jurgen Klinsmann preaches. But while 2013 was a year to remember, it is extremely likely that 2014 will be one to forget after the U.S. was drawn into a so-called Group of Death with Ghana, Portugal and Germany in Group G.
Each of these teams will be nearly impossible to beat for the U.S., and in fact even a single draw seems unlikely. While this may seem to be a grim outlook, the facts are that the U.S. can not stack up against any of the sides in their group, and only an act of god will see them advance to the knockout stages.
In the opening match of the 2014 World Cup, the U.S. will take on an extremely athletic Ghana side, who has had the Yanks number in recent times. In the last two matches between the two teams, the U.S. went down 2-1, first in the group stage of the 2006 World Cup and then at the knockout stages of the 2010 World Cup.
While it would be conceivable to say that past results do not matter, this is simply not true when one considers that current starters Tim Howard, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Jozy Altidore were all key parts of the 2010 team. No matter how much the supporting cast changed and progressed in terms of talent, the mental blocks will be nearly unforgettable and should limit the U.S. to a draw in their opening game at the maximum.
Next up on the schedule will be a great Portugal team that has arguably the best player in the world in Cristiano Ronaldo. There is no doubting that Ronaldo has the ability to score a hat trick without the help of any teammates, and when it is considered that he will play on the wing against an out-of-position DaMarcus Beasley at left-back or a yet-to-be-determined player at right-back, it is hard to see how the U.S. doesn’t get picked apart.
Additionally with Nani on the other wing and the ever-talented Joao Moutinho in the center of the park, the U.S. will be lucky not to allow 4-5 goals against Portugal, and have no chance to even pick up a point in a shootout game.
Finally the U.S. will have to go into the final game of their group stage against Germany, who is ranked second in the world and is one of the favorites to win the 2014 World Cup. The Germans possess the type of players that can change games by themselves up and down the roster, and third-place finishes at the last two World Cups and a run to the semifinal at the 2012 UEFA Championship show they play a team game.
Sure, some people will point out the U.S. beat them 4-3 in June, but don’t forget that this was against a group of reserves that will see little playing time in 2014.
When the U.S. wakes up in the morning, they will likely shake their heads, check the web and pray that they are in the midst of a bad dream. Unfortunately, they will find that is not the case, and they will go up against Ghana, Portugal and Germany in Group G at the 2014 World Cup. This is arguably the Group of Death, and undoubtedly will leave the U.S. flying home from Brazil before the knockout stages kick off.