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GROUP E: AN OVERVIEW OF THE USA’S OPPONENTS

Will the USA advance or will we take a step back to our 1998 World Cup form? This question has troubled all of us since the draw was announced in December 2005, and we realized that the USA were to be placed in a group with two of the top squads in the world as well as an up and coming African nation, Ghana. In addition, the USA has never played well in World Cups held on European soil. While we were all troubled by a horrible performance versus Germany in a March friendly, we do remember that a similarly bad performance in a friendly against the same Germany squad in 2002 did not indicate an unsuccessful cup. We also recall that positive results leading into the World Cup such as we had in 1998 when we achieved victories over Sweden, Brazil and Austria didn’t really matter either. In May 1998 I thought Steve Sampson was the best thing going. We had beaten Brazil, had just crushed Austria in Vienna and had a new 3-6-1 formation to place a distinctly American stamp on the worldwide sport. Two months later Steve Sampson was out of a job after the US had finished last in the World Cup. In December 2000, after barely clearing the second round of qualifying against the likes of Barbados and Guatemala I was convinced Bruce Arena was way over his head coaching the national team. Maybe Alan Rothenberg the former Federation chief who badly wanted Bora back after the 1998 WC disaster and was outvoted in favor Arena, whom he thought little of, was correct? Two years later, Arena had taken the USA within a controversial call of a semi-final bith in Korea/Japan 2002 and was building a regional soccer superpower. The uncertainty on pegging the fortunes of the USA before each cup proves why the World Cup is so difficult to get a handle on before the competition begins.

The group which the US was placed in is one of the most difficult at Germany 2006. However none of the opponents’ sides are so overwhelming to preclude any hope for the USA. Italy, of course is one of the world’s great Footballing nations, but the Italians have more question marks than usual entering this World Cup, largely because the squad has transitioned from a veteran side to a group of younger players thanks to Coach Marcelo Lippi. Italy well enter Germany 2006 on an 18 game unbeaten streak, including key victories over the Germany and Dutch in the last several months.

The Azzurri has a solid defensive side that will push forward when needed. Attacker Luca Toni’s health has been a question mark as well. But Lippi has brought to the forefront a new generation of young players to carry the banner for Italy .

The Azzurri use young players as their backbone. Cristian Zaccardo is among the best defenders around and Daniele DeRossi helping to not only stimulates the attack from his holding midfield position, but also has remarkable on the ball skills. is not only versatile, but serves as the glue that holds together the Italian Midfield Unit. Francesco Totti continues to be a key peg in the Italian attack and has more international experience than most of Italy ’s key players. Alberto Gilaradano and Luca Toni form a strong attacking combination that works well together. Italy, despite substantial youth is going to be very difficult for the United States to even manage a draw with. That leaves two other matches in the group whom we will need to get a result from.

The USA opens versus the Czechs on June 12th. Despite being ranked #2 in the world largely due to excellent results in the last three European Championships The Czech Republic has not made the World Cup since 1990 (when the nation was still united with Slovakia), where they crushed the United States 5-1 in the Americans first World Cup match in 40 years. But times are different now, since the USA is making its 5th consecutive appearance in the World Cup Finals while the Czechs do not have a single player with World Cup experience on its roster. The Czechs have an attacking flair that is virtually unmatched throughout the world of Football. Old horses Pavel Nedved, Karel Poborsky and Jan Koller pace the Czech attack. Despite not being a seeded side, the Czechs are getting similar attention to Portugal in 2002, as a prospective European nation with an attractive brand of attacking football. Much like the Portuguese in 2002, the Czechs seem supremely confident. Manager Karel Bruckner lauded his sides consistent European Championship success and mentioned that the World Cup is essentially the European Championship plus Brazil and Argentina . That sort of attitude will not serve the Czechs well as they open with the USA and then play Ghanaians. Moreover, the Czechs do not look as if they are in good form entering the World Cup. Despite being Saudi Arabia on home soil 2-0 last week, the Saudi’s controlled the flow of play all afternoon long and were the victims of questionable penalty decision. Jan Koller has not been fully fit for sometime and the advanced age of most of the Czech’s key players will also work against them, particularly since they lack World Cup experience. Tomas Rosicky and Tomas Galesak, the squad’s skipper, are also banged up. Vladimir Smicer, a key attacker has already been scratched for the entire World Cup.

I am fairly the confident the United States will get at worst a draw and probably a full 3 point victory versus the Czech Republic. Ghana though should also get a results versus the Czech’s and thus the USA must play very well against Ghana to assure advancement.
Ghana qualified for its first World Cup thanks to the coaching of Ratomir Dujkovic. The Black Stars are a cohesive and highly disciplined side that relies on the excellent ball skills of its midfielders and the ability to attack in spots. Stephen Appiah and Michael Essien who plays his club football for Chelsea are two of the best midfielders on the African continent. Both fit perfectly into Dujkovic’s strategy of ball control and possession. Another midfielder to watch is Sully Muntari who plays in Serie A and has excellent ball skills as well. Asamoah Gyan and Dutch-based Matthew Amoah, are excellent finishers. The back line is somewhat shaky, but Ghana has a disciplined and skillful side.

Winning a full three points from Ghana may not be as easy as many American fans believe. The Ghanians are a tactically savvy side whose manager has instilled a discipline and understanding of the game needed to face squads with more talent. The US should win a full 3 points from this match but it may be a stalemate which is broken by some late magic off a set piece or even a penalty. The USA is likely to get less goal scoring opportunities versus Ghana than versus the Czechs, so our attackers better improve their recent poor finishing form if we are to move on.

WHO ADVANCES: ITALY, USA
BEST PLAYER IN GROUP: MICHAEL ESSIEN, GHANA
BEST YOUNG PLAYER GROUP: ABOUT 5 ITALIANS TO CHOOSE FROM

About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC. View all posts by Kartik Krishnaiyer →
This entry was posted in Leagues: Major League Soccer, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to GROUP E: AN OVERVIEW OF THE USA’S OPPONENTS

  1. Hernandez says:

    USA will beat ghana. USA will adavnce. I agree with your pick.

  2. Hat Trick Peter Crouch says:

    USA isn’t going to save two penalties this World Cup so you are sunk. The Yanks have zero chance of advancing in such a tough group. The Yanks can’t put a single player on the pitch for a big club consistently yet you believe you are a world power. You just don’t build a football tradition overnight. It has to be part of your fabric, your culture, your nation. You Yanks are too busy with silly games like Baseball, Basketball and a glorified version of Rugby. You media is covering basketball, golf and baseball more than the cup. I cannot take you seriously until you prove you can beat a European side on European soil. Until then you are merely an annoyance in the real Football universe.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Peter Crouch,

    When will you be crying in your warm beer, after you lose in Round of 16 or fail to advance out of the first round?

  4. Three Lions says:

    I cannot believe the Americans are delusional enough to really believe they can be competetive this time around. Last year they basically got lucky versus Portugal because of a quick start, then beat an equally inept Mexico. They cannot beat a Euro team here on the continent, and never will in a major competetion. That leaves 3 points versus Ghana and even that is questionable. Kartik + Gregg you obviously wrote this piece, and you will be signing a different tune when the Czechs come out and put a high number on you next week. Hope you enjoy your short world cup stay.

  5. Still Michael Owen..... says:

    Who is your world class striker?

    A fellow who plays for Fulham? What rubbish!

    Who is your world class midfielder?

    A fellow who plays for Man City?
    HA HA!!!!!

    Who is your world class defender?

    A guy who plays for Leeds in the second flight??????

    I am dying here of laughter!

    And your goalkeeper? He could not even start for Tottenham, and your backup made calamity James look like the top keeper in Manchester.

    Keep dreaming of a better day USA. Do us all a favor from the world round. Get back on your aeroplane and fly back home before the you get massacred by the Czechs and the Italians.

    Come to a pub and watch England life the trophy on July 9.

  6. Anonymous says:

    USA cannot even defeat Ghana. Look at Appiah for example.

    He has played with Udinese, Parma, Brescia, Juventus and Fenerbahce.

    Essien has performed excellent for Bascia, Lyon and now the two time champion Chelsea.

    No American players have comprable club experiences playing for giants such as Chelsea or Juventus. American typically are signed by unfashionable sides such as Fulham, Manchester City, Leicster, Bayer Leverkusan and Feyngood.

    USA has no shot. You have mentioned France 98 in your posting. This performance by the Yanks will if anything be worse. The best American footballer, Friedel wants no part of your sinking ship any longer.

  7. Do You Have a Lampard???? says:

    Campable of tackling, passing, heading and scoring goals?????????

    NO! Your top midfielder plays for Manchester City

  8. Do you have a Rooney????? says:

    Strong and skillful

    Focused

    Never beaten

    Tough as nails

    NO!

    Your top attacker plays in your domestic league which is like out 3rd division! This chap is so sorry he failed twice on the bench in Germany!

  9. Do you have a Ferdinand??? says:

    Never beat

    Tough in the air

    capable of scoring goals off of set pieces

    Tactically sound and fierce at the same time

    NO!

    Your top defender has never left your sorry lowly domestic league.

  10. GAR RARD says:

    Don’t forget about me lads. The Yanks don’t have anyone in its history nearly as good as me.

  11. USA WC06 says:

    It looks like a bunch of drunk Brits are trying to make up for their nations perennial under achievment by knocking us. You guys are just pathetic losers!

  12. Kartik says:

    Boy we have some tough talk coming from the English fans on this site. We’ll see how they do beginning Saturday versus Paraguay.

  13. I wish it were so says:

    Hey Kartik… I love your optimisum, but honestly you must be truly mad in the head if you believe we are getting 3 points versus the Czechs. Let’s be realistic. Our team isn’t as good as last time and we are in a much much tougher group. Drawing a seeded Portugal was a gift, much like Portugal this time got in drawing a seeded Mexico, or the teams in 1998 got by drawing a seeded Spain, or both us and Romania got in 94 by drawing a seeded Columbia. Every time one seed doesn’t make sense based on history and tradition and last time it was Portugal. We didn’t get any of those type of breaks this time, drawing Italy who last missed the knock out stages sometime before I was born which was 1978 FYI, Ghana who is very under rated and the Czechs who could be this cup’s Portugal or they could be this cup’s Turkey. Like those two nations they have been playing good soccer outside the WC for sometime.

    We’ll be lucky if we don’t finish last in the group. We have no proven consistent finishers besides McBride and our back line leaks like the New Orleans dike. Keller can’t save every shot after a breakaway or a bad giveaway you know.

  14. Paraguay all the Way says:

    England will be 0-3.

    Rooney or no Rooney, they will be the embarassment of the tournament.

  15. Real Madrid Management says:

    Michael Owen is the most overrated striker in the tournament.

  16. Anonymous says:

    How can anybody really think the Americans can advance? They have a lousy team and are drawn in a dealy group. 0-3, 0 points.

  17. hat trick peter crouch says:

    Did you see we scored 6 goals yesterday more than the Yanks have probably scored all year! Oh and those lousy Czech’s the author talks about being old tired scored 3 goals against a world cup side yesterday, not the 1 goal total USA scored against 2 non wcf sides last week. The Yanks do nothing more than provide humour and amusement at the finals. They are not a serious football nation nor a serious side.

  18. Anonymous says:


    I am fairly the confident the United States will get at worst a draw and probably a full 3 point victory versus the Czech Republic. Ghana though should also get a results versus the Czech’s and thus the USA must play very well against Ghana to assure advancement. “

    I have been visiting this site somewhat frequently since I found it and believed you were superbly educated Football fan especially for an American until I read that. Are you just a nativist or do you really know zero about the game?

  19. Federico says:

    These Englishmen are driving me nuts.

    Playing in Europe is not the only way to get club experience that serves you well in FIFA competition.

    The Mexican leagues and the US MLS are competitive leagues played at high level with good pace and probably better on the ball midfield skills than the EPL. I saw where one of your Brit papers asked Bruce Arena how he could play Eddie Pope because he’s never played in Europe and Arena in a curt way replied that Pope was probably better than the European defenders.

    Mexico has advanced beyond the first round in the last 4 WC finals we’ve played in. With the exception of Hugo Sanchez and now Jared Borgetti, our entire team has played in North American leagues, usually our domestic leagues, sometimes the American or Coast Rican leagues. Even Sanchez got fed up with Spain and finished his career in MLS. A North American side has advanced beyond the first round to the knock out phase every cup since 1982.

    The USA team in 1994 had a bunch of guys who didn’t have pro contracts. Yet they held World Champion Brasil scoreless for 78 minutes. England did not even qualify for that cup.

    To quote a brit, ” you are full of rubbish.”

  20. Anonymous says:

    The World rankings by FIFA are complete garbage. USA ranked #4 ahead of Italy, Germany, Argentina, and England!

    Say what!

  21. Torres says:

    Look for Clint Dempsey to add a great deal of energy abnd some really nice moves on the ball and into space for the MNT over there.

  22. Anonymous says:

    England is really so much better than the USA and Mexico. Look at how many times recently they have gotten to the finals of any cup competition and look at how well English players do when they leave England. Something to think about.

  23. Kartik says:

    I have never claimed the US or Mexico is better than England for the purposes of this particular cup so I am not sure where all the hostility is coming from. However, I watched the England friendly yesterday and noticed Jamie Carragher started at the right back. To me that is simply laughable. I have been watching Liverpool games for years and while Carragher has certainly improved under Benitez over his inconsistent form under Houllier (then again the whole squad has improved under Rafa) he would have a hard time making the US World Cup roster. We simply have much better outside marking defenders than him.

    That having been said not a single striker on the US team would even land in England’s player pool. To think a combination guy like Shawn Wright-Phillips just got cut from the England squad…..he’d probably be the best US attacking player besides possibly Donovan.

    The dispute about Jared Borgetti on another thread is ludicrious. I am far from a Mexico fan, but Borgetti is a really good COMPLETE forward…..not just a goal poacher with limited other moves like so many of the English forwards. (ie Andy Cole, Emile Heskey and yes love him as I do Robbie Fowler)

  24. Anonymous says:

    you’re so overly optimistic about this team. get a grip.

  25. Anonymous says:

    don’t underestimate ghana

  26. Anonymous says:

    peter Crouch

    When did England last win a major competition ?

    1966

    I LAUGH AT YOUR ARROGANT FANS

    I LAUGH AT
    ENGLAND

    I CHEER FOR EVERYONE BUT ENGLAND

  27. Gator Mike says:

    You know Kartik, I think I may actually watch the World Cup this time if you really think we may be good. Soccer is a fun sport to play and is exciting on TV, but when you have no team or player to root for it can be a drag.

  28. mtlion says:

    It’s true that building a tradition takes time, but it isn’t a guarantee of success (see the sad England trophy history or lack thereof or at the other end Greece… that’s right, Greece as Euro Champs-and they didn’t even qualify for Germany, as didn’t Turkey, 3rd place at the last World Cup).
    A good result for the USA would be making it to the knock-out rounds (too bad that if they get in at 2nd they would have to face Brazil, most likely winner of group F). Results at the world cup are not based on tradition: they are based on grit, determination, some level of WC experience (quite a few US players have been there before) and LUCK.
    Group E: Italy and USA (USA on goal difference).

  29. Tres Colores says:

    I have never been impressed with the play of the English. USA and Mexico are about as good as England.

  30. the coach says:

    Peter Crouch, just be lucky you wont face the Gouch. 6’4″ 210 and not afraid to take a red card and break your hip!

  31. john smith extra smooth says:

    Soccer is a team sport, and although I root very heavily for an EPL side, England has the best team of individuals north of the equator.

    The US has focused on playing as a team far longer than England. Dave Beckham is a pratt and hasnt the fitness level to keep pace with 1/4 of the talent the US has.

  32. A whiny Yank goes down says:

    Above poster. We are about 5 goals better than USA. Not a single american could start for England. Not a single American outside of your goalkeeper Friedel who isn’t even playing in WC06 would make the England squad. Cry in your cheap Budweiser beer, Yank…… you guys are going down hard this time.

  33. Kartik says:

    The way you guys are talking you’d think England has won a world cup or two in the last 40 years! I have never claimed that the US is better than England as a collection of individuals but our national team functions like a team whereas the England side functions like an all-star team of inviduals who don’t work particularly well togtether. Maybe you guys have grown up as a team this time, but I have my doubts. You guys always poo poo the number of caps american players recieve but understand that helps us build teamwork and continuity. We don’t just flip the switch every few years like you guys.

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