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Soccer World Cup

World Cup Schedule: The 5 Toughest Roads To The Finals

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World Cup Schedule: The 5 Toughest Roads To The Finals

2014 World Cup logo
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Winning a World Cup is nothing short of a monumental task. Actually, just getting to a World Cup is tougher than most can fathom. But once you get there and the groups are decided, the road becomes that much tougher for some, and perhaps a little more reasonable for others. Here are five teams that got the short end of the stick and have a difficult road if they expect to reach the finals of the 2014 World Cup.

5. Spain

Niges De Jong
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5. Spain

Niges De Jong
Getty Images

For starters, Spain has a target on their back as the defending world champions, but they also find themselves in a tricky group, as they'll open up against the Netherlands, the runner up in the last World Cup. If Spain doesn't win Group B, they're going to face Brazil in the Round of 16, which is going to make their road to the final a lot more difficult than it was four years ago.

4. Japan

Belgium v Japan - International Friendly
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4. Japan

Belgium v Japan - International Friendly
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Japan has a team that can surprise some people, but it's going to be a long road to get there. They play in a wide open group, but they're going to have to play three drastically different teams that play various styles, so the game-to-game adjustments could be difficult for them. If they advance, they're like to have a world power waiting for them in the Round of 16, which could end their tournament sooner than expected.

3. Portugal

Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal
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3. Portugal

Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal
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Not only is Portugal in the Group of Death, but they have to open up with Germany, which could put them behind the rest of the group early and have them playing catch up. Its second match is in the rainforest, and then there's a lot of travel and a quick turnaround before the final group match against Ghana; that's a tough schedule just to get out of the group. On top of that, Cristiano Ronaldo may not be completely healthy.

2. England

wilshere
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2. England

wilshere
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England finds themselves facing an uphill battle just to get out of the Group Stage, as they open up with Italy before playing Uruguay in their second match. If England somehow makes it to the Knockout Stage, they won't reach the semi-finals without first having to take down a team like Brazil, Spain, or the Netherlands, so reaching the finals for England is a monumental task.

1. USA

USMNT Send-Off Series Azerbaijan
Kyle Terada - USATODAY Sports

1. USA

USMNT Send-Off Series Azerbaijan
Kyle Terada - USATODAY Sports

Jurgen Klinsmann doesn't think the U.S. will win the World Cup, and for good reason. Not only do they have to face the Group of Death, including Klinsmann's home country of Germany, but in their first match the Americans have to overcome the mental hurdle of playing Ghana, the team that eliminated them from the last two World Cups. After playing Ghana, it's only going to get harder for the USMNT, giving them the toughest road to the finals.