After the recent drawing for the group stages of the upcoming World Cup, the United States find themselves in a group full of intimidating opposition. The Americans were placed in Group G along with Germany, Portugal, and Ghana.
In addition to their hefty opposition, the American squad will also be subject to a nightmare of a traveling schedule during their group stage tour. If you were to look at the path that the team will be taking from match to match, the United States will have making quite the trek.
Their first match will take place in Natal, in the northeast corner of Brazil. Then, they will travel around the Amazon jungle to the rural city of Manaus in the northwest. Manaus is definitely the least attractive venue given its sweltering jungle temperatures and the extremely daunting task it is merely to travel to.
After their second match, the USA will go to Sao Paulo, far to the southeast, before returning back to the northeast city of Recife for their final group stage match. Essentially, the United States will be circling the entire country. This will undoubtedly have a negative effect on the squad’s resting periods.
The schedule is surely a setback for the US. However, many other squads will be subject to the difficulties of traveling and the American side will have to cope with their troubles like everyone else.
Each opponent the USA will face poses a unique and imposing challenge. Their first opponents, Ghana, are as physical and spirited as any other African team. African sides have been heavily toted as having an advantage in Brazil’s hot climate.
On top of that, Ghana have had the USA’s number. They just so happen to have knocked out the Americans in both of the last two World Cups. The match-up will be a great opening test for the USA and possibly an opportunity for redemption against Ghana for past disappointments.
In their second match, in the jungle city of Manaus, team USA will face the unstoppable force of Cristiano Ronaldo as they square off against Portugal. Outside of Ronaldo, the Portuguese side has only a hair more quality than the United States. Their bench is not especially fantastic either.
Portugal’s weaknesses aside, the United States will be lucky to escape this match with a draw. Obviously, it is far too early to take a player’s current form and create expectations of how they will perform at the World Cup (or if they will even be fit and healthy for it when it does finally come around). However, after watching Cristiano Ronaldo this season, it is obvious he is on another planet compared to anyone on team USA. The Americans will likely need to put at least a goal on the board if they expect to take any points away from Manaus.
In their final match, USA manager Jurgen Klinsmann will go toe to toe with his fellow countrymen. Hopefully by this point, Klinsmann’s side will have at least a few points to give them confidence going into their match against Germany. The German side can be described as nothing less than a powerhouse. The United States will have to play with discipline and confidence if they hope to have any chance of not getting trampled in this one. Germany’s best eleven outclasses the American side in a way that is shaming.
That is not to say that the United States will be defeated shamefully. They are fully capable of putting in a solid defensive performance and, in the past, the World Cup has a habit of bringing some world-class play out of less-than American players.
All in all, it would be somewhat of a miracle for the United States to make it through this group. More unlikely things have happened, though. And regardless of how team USA performs in the group stages, World Cup Brazil looks to be shaping up as the spectacle for which people have been hoping.