The World Cup is now less than 50 days away. The first stage of the tournament will be a round robin group stage with 4 teams in each group playing 3 games to split 32 teams into 16. 3 points are awarded for a win, 1 for a draw, and 0 for a loss. With teams being drawn into groups for the first stage in early December, there’s been plenty of time to pour over matchups during the group stage and make predictions for how prolific teams in difficult groups will fare.
The United States gets ready to improve on a rather successful 2010 World Cup that still could have gone much better. The Americans were defeated in yet another international competition by Ghana, a long-time competitive rival.
An incredibly unlucky draw will pit the United States against Ghana yet again and pair them with two of the superpowers of world soccer, Portugal and Germany (FIFA Groups). The Germans, coming off of a hugely successful 2010 World Cup in South Africa, will only be stronger with the emerging talents of Marco Reus, Mesut Ozil, and Andre Schurrle. The Portuguese, with superstar and Ballon D’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo.
Compared to 2010’s last-gasp draws and surprise wins, the USA look much more legitimate as competitors going into this World Cup. They dominated World Cup qualifying in their region and won the group stage (FIFA Qualifying), including a win against Mexico in Estadio Azteca for the first time ever (The Big Lead). In a summer friendly the US national team defeated Germany 4-3 (Centennial Match).
Success for the Americans will depend on a strong defense. Center back Matt Besler is a lock for a starting position at the back but his partner could be any one of Omar Gonzalez, Geoff Cameron, or Clarence Goodson. Jermaine Jones is the likely choice to feature at defensive midfielder while Kyle Beckerman or the versatile Geoff Cameron could also challenge for the spot. Michael Bradley provides the team its attacking prowess, and the target man Jozy Altidore will be carrying the goalscoring weight in the last World Cup of his career alongside Landon Donovan and Graham Zusi.
With a little bit of luck in the match between Portugal and Germany and redemption against Ghana, the Americans could find themselves in the Round of 16 for the second World Cup in a row. 4 points should get the USA through the group stage, a win against Ghana and a draw against Germany or Portugal.
1. CONCACAF (2013) World Cup Qualifying- Men’s. Confederation of North, Central American, and Caribbean Association Football. Retrieved from: http://www.concacaf.com/category/world-cup-qualifying-men/schedule-results\
2. FIFA (2013) World Cup Groups. Federation Internationale Football Association. Retrieved from: http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/groups/index.html
3. Duffy, T. (2012, August 15) USA Beat Mexico 1-0 At Azteca, Their First Win on Mexican Soil. The Big Lead. Retrieved from: http://thebiglead.com/2012/08/15/usa-beat-mexico-1-0-at-azteca-their-first-win-on-mexican-soil/
4. US Soccer (2013, June 2) US Men’s National Team Defeats Germany 4-3 in Centennial Celebration Match in Nation’s Capital. US Soccer. Retrieved from: http://www.ussoccer.com/stories/2014/03/17/14/04/usa-defeats-germany-in-centennial-match