We are less then a month away from the start of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, and I can not wait!! I am not a casual fan, I am a huge fan, I planned my work hours specifically around the USA and Portugal games (I am American born to Portuguese immigrants). All I wanted to do was play soccer as a youth like my hero Luis Figo and cried when ever Portugal didn’t qualify or were eliminated.
For you casual fans, I can help you with some information to keep you informed. Last week National Team Manager Jurgen Klinsmann called up 30 players for World Cup preparations, but he will have to cut that down to 23 for the tournament.
On May 29th Jurgen will have to make his 7 cuts, but they will play Azerbaijan 2 days prior in a warm up friendly in San Francisco. Although we will most likely see the “bubble” players play that game, you will see starters since there are a few positions that are still up for grabs.
Lets take a look at the group of death that team USA was lucky enough to have been drawn in:
First game will be with Africa’s Ghana, who currently 38th in the FIFA rankings (formula for rankings seems to change every few years), but don’t be fooled. Not only have they eliminated team USA in the last two world cups in 2006 and 2010, but they have some very talented players. Their midfielders are very good, tough, and experienced. Players like Michael Essien, Kwadwo Asamoah will make it very difficult for our midfielders to operate.
Our defense will have to stop Asamoah Gyan and Andre Ayew, which will not be easy. In last years African Cup of Nations, Ghana finished 4th . Obviously we want team USA to win, but if they can at least tie this game, they will give themselves a chance and not be forced to beat or tie their 2nd match.
And that opponent will be Portugal. Not only were the soccer gods not kind to team USA with this group of death draw, they weren’t kind to us Portuguese-Americans who want to see both countries do well. This draw practically killed my enthusiasm for the World Cup. I am hoping USA and Portugal win their opening matches, tie each other, and win their last matched, resulting in both nations moving on to the knock out phase, but wishful thinking.
Portugal is ranked #3 in the world, although I think that is too high. Although Portugal’s has one of the two best player in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo, success is based on a team effort. Portugal had a tough time during qualifying and will need to fix their defensive woes.
In the 2012 European Champions Portugal played in another group of death, Germany in the opening match, and lost 1-0. They beat Denmark 3-2, Holland 2-1 and the Czechs 1-0 before losing to eventual and defending European, World Cup Champions Spain in a penalty shoot out after a 0-0 tie.
After two tough games team USA will have to play Germany, ranked #4 in the world. Lets hope team USA will not enter this game needing a win. Loaded with experienced skilled players, and several younger experienced players, Germany will he tough to beat. Captain Phil Lahm, only 30 years old, will be playing in his 3rd world cup, is considered one of the best full-backs in the history of the game by some. Since the 2002 World Cup when they were runners-up to Brazil, Germany has finished 3rd in 2006 and 2010 world cups, runners up in the 2008 European champions and semi finals in 2012. There isn’t much to say about Germany, they are favorites to go far again, at least to the semi-finals again. Other players to look out for includes Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller, and whether Miroslav Klose can break the all-time world cup scoring record.
What do I think about team USA’s chances in the world cup? They have the talent to beat Ghana, but I think they will lose to Germany. They probably will lose to Portugal, but the Portuguese has had some shockingly bad games. In the last several years, they’ve had goal scoring and defensive woes. People still say USA shocked the world by beating Portugal 3-2 in 2002, but that was 12 years ago. I think best case for USA against Portugal will be a tie, BUT, that is why we play the games.
I hope this sheds some light on who to watch for when team USA takes the field and what to expect!