Preview of US Group of Death Pairing for World Cup 2014 (Updated)

The USA World Cup grouping draw put it in what has been called the Group of Death where they must face Germany (#2), Portugal (#4) and Ghana (#38).  Their collective record against these teams is 5-10-1 and their last two eliminations from World Cup play came at the hand of Ghana (2010) and Germany (2002).

Profiles on the teams below from

JUNE 16 – GHANA (FIFA Rank #38)


Natal,_Brazil_-_Arena_das_DunasArenas das Dunas, Natal (45,000)

  How they qualified

 Ghana survived one of the continent’s toughest qualifying groups by winning five of their six matches against 2012 African champions Zambia, Lesotho and Sudan. A 1-0 defeat in Zambia was their only set-back in a campaign that saw them outscore their opponents by 15 goals to three. That sent them into the final play-off round, where again the Black Stars were done no favours by the draw, which set them up against seven-time African champions Egypt. However, a resounding 6-1 win the home first leg basically settled the tie and sent them into their third FIFA World Cup in succession even before a meaningless 2-1 defeat in Cairo.

FIFA World Cup finals history

 An impressive FIFA World Cup finals in 2006 saw the Black Stars beat the Czech Republic and the USA before being eliminated by Brazil in the second round, but they were the only African team to escape their group. In 2010, they were again the only side from the continent in the knockout rounds, and they equalled Africa’s best-ever performance by beating the USA to reach the quarter-finals. Ghana’s loss in a penalty kick shoot-out to Uruguay in the last eight was perhaps the most dramatic of the tournament, and they may well consider themselves as having unfinished business after Asamoah Gyan’s missed penalty kick denied them from becoming the first African side to reach the semi-finals of a FIFA World Cup.

Top Players

There are few better midfields in the world than Ghana‘s as the Black Stars can call on veteransMichael Essien and Sulley Muntari as well as players hitting their prime like Andre Ayew, Kwadwo Asamoah and Kevin-Prince Boateng. Up front, the athletic Asamoah Gyan will be a vital focal point and no doubt anxious to prove that Ghana can be the undisputed class of Africa.


 Kwesi Appiah

Best FIFA Performance

 FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010 (Quarter-finals), FIFA U-17 World Cup Italy 1991, Ecuador 1995 (Winners), FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009 (Winners)

Former stars: Abedi Pele, Samuel KuffourIbrahim Sunday

Qualifying Record  6-0-2
Goals  25-6
Avg  3.13-075
USA Record v Team  0-2


USA 1, GHANA 2 2010 World Cup Round of 16

Ghana is 0-2 versus Germany and has never played Portugal.


The team is 38th in FIFA’s rankings — the lowest they’ve been since October 2009. If you don’t like FIFA’s rankings (we don’t), Nate Silver’s SPI metric has Ghana at No. 27 sandwiched between Greece and Nigeria. Some of the team’s best players are coming off up-and-down club seasons. Michael Essien started only a handful of games at AC Milan. Asamoah Gyan (the guy who scored the goal above) left the Premier League to play in the United Arab Emirates. Kevin-Prince Boateng hasn’t scored a goal for Schalke since Feb. 1. There are only six defenders on the entire 23-man Ghana roster, and everyone seems to think the back line could be a problem against high-level international competition. Ghana will still present problems to the U.S. going forward, but there’s reason to be optimistic that the Americans can get three points of out this opening game on June 16. Read more:

June 22 – Portugal (FIFA Rank #4)

Arena Amazonia, Manuas 43,377

  How they qualified

For the second time in succession Portugal had to go through the play-offs in order to advance to the world finals. Reprising their aggregate defeat of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the road to South Africa 2010, the Portuguese saw off Sweden 4-2 over two legs to book their place at Brazil 2014. Their hero of the hour was none other than Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored all four of their goals against the Swedes to round off a qualifying tournament full of ups and downs for Paulo Bento’s side. They began their bid to reach their sixth FIFA World Cup as the favourites to win Group F, having made the semi-finals of UEFA EURO 2012, where they lost on penalties to Spain. And though they held their own against Russia, losing in Moscow but winning the return fixture in Lisbon, the Portuguese had to settle for second place in the section after surprise draws at home to Northern Ireland and home and away to Israel. That left them with no option but to take the play-off route again, but in a duel that pitted together two of the world’s best players, Ronaldo got the better of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the scorer of his side’s two goals, to guide the Portuguese safely to Brazi

FIFA World Cup finals history

 It was not until England 1966 that the Portuguese made their world finals debut, yet as entrances go it could hardly have been more impressive. Spearheaded by the irrepressible Eusebio, Portugal’s golden generation knocked out Brazil en route to the semi-finals, where they came up just short against the host nation. Consolation came in the shape of victory over the Soviet Union in the match for third place. The Portuguese do not have happy memories of their next appearance on the big stage, however, which came at Mexico 1986. Despite opening up with a win over England, they went out in the group phase after defeats to Poland and Morocco. Absent from Italy 1990, USA 1994 and France 1998, the Portuguese contested their third World Cup at Korea/Japan 2002, where they once again fell at the first hurdle. A very different story would follow at Germany 2006. Coached on that occasion by Luiz Felipe Scolari, the man who had taken Brazil to the world title four years earlier, Portugal made it all the way to last four before being knocked out by a Zinedine Zidane penalty, with Scolari’s side then going on to lose the match for third place against hosts Germany. In South Africa four years later Portugal’s dream ended in the Round of 16, when they were edged out 1-0 be eventual champions Spain.

Top Players

 As he showed in the play-off against Sweden, Cristiano Ronaldo is still very much Portugal’s go-to man, though the peerless Real Madrid star is supported is by a very able cast. The central-defensive pairing of Pepe and Bruno Alves is the cornerstone of a very solid rearguard that also features flying full-backs Joao Pereira and Fabio Coentrao. Joao Moutinho is the heartbeat of a creative midfield unit, while Nani can also be relied upon to shine alongside Ronaldo.


 Paulo Bento

Best FIFA Performance

 1966 FIFA World Cup England (third place), FIFA U-20 World Cup Saudi Arabia 1989 and Portugal 1991 (winners), FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011 (runners-up), FIFA U-17 World Cup Scotland 1989 (third place).

Former stars: Eusebio, Coluna, Simoes, Jose Augusto, Torres, Jaime Graca, Rui Costa and Luis Figo.

Qualifying Record 8-3-1
Goals  24-11
Avg  2-0.92
USA Record v Team  2-2-1





2002 World Cup


This game will be played in Manaus, a jungle outpost in the middle of the Amazon that every team in the World Cup wanted to avoid. It’s oppressively hot and humid, and the trip there is a long slog. There were also reports a few months ago that the unpredictable conditions were making it difficult to grow an even playing surface. All of this is good for the U.S.  American players, specifically MLS players, are used to traveling distances that European players find absurd. The chief complaint from European players who come to MLS is always that the coast-to-coast travel demands are brutal. Since the MLS season runs through the summer (Europe’s offseason), a lot of these American players have experience playing in the extreme heat of places like Dallas, Los Angeles, and Houston. Even places like Philly, Chicago, and New York can get as hot as Manaus in the meat of the MLS season. The U.S. spent World Cup qualifying playing on the hilly pitches of the Caribbean and the hostile, hot atmospheres of Central America. They’re used to bad conditions. If there’s a team that’s going to be affected by the demands of Manaus, it’s Portugal. Read more:

JUNE 26 – GERMANY (FIFA Rank #2)

Itaipava Arena Pernambuco – Recife 46,154

  How they qualified

Germany topped Group C with an unbeaten record, sealing automatic qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ with nine victories from ten fixtures. Furthermore, coach Joachim Low’s charges hit 36 goals along the way, the most of any side in European zone qualifying. The three-time world champions’ eye-catching attacking displays have thrilled their fans and demonstrated why they are among the favourites to take the title in Brazil. However, there is still plenty of room for improvement. The 4-4 draw with Sweden in Berlin is a painful memory, especially after Germany had led 4-0 lead. “We still have work to do before the World Cup,” commented Low. “I see two main areas to focus on: we need to stabilise both our defence and our play in the final third.”.

FIFA World Cup finals history

Germany lie third in the all-time world football ranking with three FIFA World Cup triumphs, behind only Brazil on five and Italy on four. The 1954 team won the tournament in Switzerland as rank outsiders, in what became known as the Miracle of Berne. Franz Beckenbauer lifted the trophy on home soil in 1974, and Lothar Matthaus followed suit at Italy 1990. The Germans have also finished runners-up four times, in 1966, 1982, 1986 and 2002, and came third on four occasions, in 1934 and 1970, and at the last two finals in 2006 and 2010. No other team has played more matches (99) or scored more goals (222) at the FIFA World Cup finals.

Top Players

The key players Keeper Manuel Neuer is the undisputed No1, while many experts believe he is the real deal, equipped not only to follow in the footsteps of Oliver Kahn and Jens Lehmann, but also to develop into one of the best in the world. Full-back Philipp Lahm and schemer Bastian Schweinsteiger earned their international spurs long ago: each has reached 100 caps but is still at their peak. The next generation appears immensely promising too. Former Real Madrid starlet Mesut Ozil, who now laces his boots at Arsenal was just 21 when he thrilled the crowds at the 2010 FIFA World Cup and is a gifted creative player with passing ability to match the best in the world. Up front, Thomas Muller won the adidas Golden Boot and was named Best Young Player at the 2010 finals, while youngsters Marco Reus, Andre Schurrle, Toni Kroos and Mario Gotze keep getting better and better


 Joachim Low

Best FIFA Performance

 FIFA World Cup Switzerland 1954, Germany 1974, Italy 1990 (Winners), FIFA U-20 World Cup Australia 1981 (Winners)

Former stars: Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller, Lothar Matthaus

Qualifying Record  9-0-1
Goals  36-10
Avg  3.6-1.0
USA Record v Team  3-6-0


If the U.S. beats Ghana and ties Portugal, and Germany wins its first two games against those teams, the U.S. can still lose to Germany and get out of the group on goal difference. The only caveat is that the U.S. can’t get blown out by Germany. The good news for the U.S. is that Germany doesn’t look like the juggernaut that they did a few months ago. Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinstiger missed the team’s last game due to injury. Defender Marcel Schmeltzer, a presumed starter, didn’t make the final 23-man roster. The only true striker on the team is Miroslav Klose, who’s 36. It looks like they’ll play a strikerless, false-9 formation in Brazil — something they haven’t tested in major competition. They’re still one of the favorites to win the whole thing, but there are now at least a few questions around the team. Right? Right. Read more:



USA 4, Germany 3 June 2013

USA 0, Germany 1

2002 World Cup Quarterfinals



JUNE 30 – #19 RUSSIA?

Beira-Rio Stadium, Porto Allegre 51,530

In the unlikely event the U.S. wins their group, they would face the #2 team from Group H.  Group H features Belgium (#11), Russia (#19), Algeria (#22) or South Korea (#57).  Assuming Belgium wins the group, a victorious U.S. could either face rival Russia or a rematch with Algeria who it eliminated four years ago.

The U.S. record against this group is

Belgium (1-4-0), Russia (0-2-3), Algeria (1-0) and South Korea (2-3-2).

JULY 1 – #11 Belgium?


Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador 53,700

If the U.S. finishes second, it likely will face Belgium in Salvador.  The U.S. beat Belgium in the very first World Cup in 1930, but has been 0-4 since.  The most recent matchup was a 4-2 loss in Cleveland.  The two teams will have a closed door scrimmage on the opening day of the cup.


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