December 6, 2013

U.S. draws brutal World Cup schedule

They must face juggernauts Germany, Ghana and Portugal and overcome a wearying 9,000-mile journey across Brazil.

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

The fate of the United States soccer team is announced during the draw ceremony for the 2014 World Cup near Salvador, Brazil, Friday, Dec. 6, 2013.

AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo

click image to enlarge

Groups A to D are displayed on a video screen during the draw ceremony for the 2014 soccer World Cup in Costa do Sauipe near Salvador, Brazil, Friday, Dec. 6, 2013.

AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo

Die Mannschaft is coached by Klinsmann's former assistant, Joachim Loew. The Americans beat a second-tier German roster 4-3 in a June exhibition at Washington.

"With Jurgen Klinsmann, they have another mentality," Loew said. "I learned a lot from Jurgen, so this is special."

Ranked 14th in the world, the U.S. has alternated quick exits with advancement since returning to soccer's showcase in 1990 after a 40-year absence.

After the draw four years ago, one British paper used a headline "EASY" for England, Algeria, Slovenia and the Yanks, and The Sun called it the "best English group since the Beatles." The Americans wound up atop a group for the first time since the first World Cup in 1930, and England advanced as the second-place nation.

This time, second-ranked Germany and fifth-ranked Portugal are the favorites to reach the second round. If the U.S. qualifies for the round of 16, it would face Belgium, Russia, Algeria or South Korea from Group H.

As for the rest of the field, Brazil, Cameroon, Croatia, Mexico were put in Group A; Australia, Chile, Netherlands and Spain in Group B; Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan in Group C; Costa Rica, England, Italy and Uruguay in Group D; Ecuador, France, Honduras and Switzerland in Group E; and Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria in Group F.

The U.S. will feel pressure to open with a win against 24th-ranked Ghana. The Black Stars defeated the Americans 2-1 in the 2006 group stage and by the same score in overtime in the round of 16 at the last World Cup in South Africa.

"They're the team that beat us, kind of crushed our dreams of being in the World Cup, so I think we're due a little bit of luck and we're due a win against them," Dempsey said.

At the 2002 tournament, the U.S. opened with a 3-2 upset of Portugal after taking a shocking three-goal lead in the first 36 minutes. Several of the American players are of German descent, so all three matchups are intriguing.

The U.S. will train at home from mid-May until early June and plans a series of exhibition games, which likely will include England as an opponent, before heading to Brazil.

"Everybody is saying that this is the 'Group of Death' and it's such a hard challenge," former American captain John Harkes said. "I still think that the U.S. can rise to the occasion."

 

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