It’s time for 32 World Cup teams to meet their maker. Four years of preparation have come to this. It’s a little unnerving. Anything and everything can happen. For the U.S., things are no different. Three games in the Brazilian heat are about to decide the success of the last four years of international football. Here is the ultimate preview for the United States of America’s World Cup campaign.
On the Group of Death:
Is this hardest World Cup group ever? Have we ever seen four teams with legitimate hopes of making the knockout round drawn in the same group? This group has one quarter of the round of 16 sides from South Africa. It has the one of the World Cup favorites, the best player in the world, arguably the best team in Africa and the best team in CONCACAF. Every game is fit for the latter stages, it’s murderers’ row and unfortunately two teams will have to leave after the slug-fest they’ll go through.
On Jurgen Klinsmann:
He loves pressure, right? The pressure moments are the ones where Klinsmann is the only guy left smiling, the only guy left clapping. Klinsmann eats World Cups up. As a player, he scored 11 World Cup goals, won the World Cup in 1990 and the Golden Boot in 1994. As a manager, he pulled together a German team that looked destined to finally turn the steely German public into a mess of babbling buffoons after a 4-1 friendly drubbing to Italy three months before the tournament to the suave side that took third place and instead returned a sense of pride in nationalism and patriotism to the country. Klinsmann’s writing is in Time magazine. He flies airplanes so he doesn’t have to deal with the LA traffic. He’ll be ready to lead his troops to battle but if fails the media will bring up Landon Donovan as a point when he messed up.
It’s a funny thing, form. Just a few months ago we were all panicked about Clint Dempsey. He hadn’t played good soccer in some 10 months, had a miserable first half season with the Seattle Sounders, almost played his way off a last-place Fulham team on loan and was behaving increasingly petulantly on the field. So, how do you like him now? Two months into the MLS season, Dempsey has unquestionably been the best player in the league. He’s top of the scoring charts with eight goals so far and the Sounders are top of the table. Dempsey still doesn’t look like he’s having any fun but there are no concerns over him going into Brazil. Michael Bradley is playing good soccer too. He’s been helped by playing every week with Toronto F.C. and he’s scoring goals at a rate that we haven’t seen from him at any point in his career. Even Jozy Altidore finally scored a brace against Nigeria and has some confidence back in himself but everything will remain about the midfield leaders. Bradley and Dempsey are the U.S.’s best players and they have to be great at the World Cup.