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World Cup Draw Is Doomsday Scenario For The United States

Walking out of the 2006 World Cup Draw in Germany, Bruce Arena knew that the United States’ tournament was over before it even started.

Despite boasting a strong side that would climb into the top ten of the FIFA World Rankings, Arena knew that the draw had spit out an impossible task for the USA.

It was clear to the coach that the size and physicality of the formidable Czech Republic would leave the US reeling, and the athleticism of African side Ghana would present problems as well. A matchup with eventual champion Italy spoke for itself.

Draw Day was Doomsday for the Americans in 2006. Half a year later, the US crashed out of the World Cup with a single point; and Arena — a man who has never gotten along with the draws — departed the job.

In 2010, the draw in South Africa opened the door for the United States. In a group with a weak England, and minnows Slovenia and Algeria, Bob Bradley’s team flourished and advanced as group winners.

When each team looks at its group after the field is set Friday in Brazil, each team will know that it needs to a minimum of a win and a draw to advance. That’s why a potential group with Brazil, France, and the Netherlands, as just one example, is a worrying concern for the United States.

Already, the USA is in a spot of real trouble. Because FIFA only seeds one pot, or eight teams, and the other three pots are divided up on the basis of geography, the Americans are in Pot 3 with the other teams from CONCACAF and Asia. This means that Jurgen Klinsmann’s team will be the strongest team in the weakest pot.

Looking at the 32 teams and the four pots, the US would be clear favorites to beat 5-6 of the teams that are in the Americans’ pot, which mean the US will not be playing them in the group stage.

It’s an uncomfortable position, and one that can produce many horror groups. Fancy meeting Germany, Ghana, and Holland? How about Spain, Ivory Coast, and Portugal? What about Argentina, England and Italy?

With the strength of the field and the unusual seeding, the US has a one in two chance at being drawn into a Group of Death. Plus, while South Africa 2010 had North Korea and New Zealand, all 32 teams who have qualified this time are stronger and better than four years ago.

The reality is that the World Cup is one tough beast. Since the US qualified in 1990 for the first time in 40 years, the Americans are 4-13-5 in the competition. Of those four wins, one was on home soil in 1994, one was against familiar foe Mexico, and the one in 2010 required the latest goal in World Cup history from Landon Donovan.

World Cups are extremely competitive. And it’s not always the seeded teams that get you; in fact, the USA hasn’t lost to the seeded team in its group since 1998.

You can get specific with these things – for instance, the US wants to be in Group H, or they face a net travel schedule akin to flying around the world three times, hopping off at remote locations to play soccer matches.

The US obviously wants Switzerland from the seeded pot. If not the Swiss, then Colombia or Uruguay is preferred. In Pot Two, Algeria, Cameroon, or Ecuador. In Pot Four, Greece, Bosnia, or Croatia is the wish.

As with any FIFA event, there is murkiness and shouts of conspiracy. And as it is with any FIFA event, those shouts and that murkiness can’t be dispelled. Just know that it’s grim for the US going into Friday, as grim as it may be coming out.

It’s cruel, the draw. It’s based more on your geographic location than your ability, more on shaky rankings than past performance.

It’s one of the highest drama points of the entire World Cup journey, and as you survey those perky little ping-pong balls in their immaculate, mounted jars, know that they can be deadly.

Of course, upsets happen. But in the most likely scenario, the United States’ World Cup campaign may get an injection of hope, a wonderful boost on Friday. Or the whole thing may feel it’s over before the tournament has even started. The importance, though, is that fans and players alike keep their perspective. Nothing is over until it’s over.

Editor’s note: For the latest World Cup news, analysis and opinion, visit the World Cup page.

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  1. Felix

    December 6, 2013 at 1:55 am

    As a Dane (We blew it, worst second place, disgracing ourselves with a 0-4 loss to armenia)), we are oftem mucking about how hard it is to qualify to the World Cup through the Euro Qualification. Then if we do, it’s shallow waters for the group play with usually a real chance at second place in the group at least.

    So I guess it evens out, qualifying through one of the easiest qual tournys puts you in a spot come the Cup.

  2. Andre

    December 5, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    Food for thought: The USA has flopped miserably at European World Cups in 1990, 1998, and 2006 but made it out of the group when it was held elsewhere in 1994, 2002, and 2010.

    Obviously there are a lot of factors that played into those six tournaments but I honestly believe there is something to the notion that most of the European teams struggle when its off their continent and the field is leveled a bit. I am not talking about the two or three superpowers but the other Europeans.

    I feel unless there is an all-time group of death scenario the US will progress out of the group and could easily reach the quarters.

    • Felix

      December 6, 2013 at 2:01 am

      Us Danes have done best in Mexico 86 (1/8 finals first time we played the World Cup, beat Uruguay 6-1 on the way, beating Germany too) and Quarter Finals in South Africa, going down 2-3 to Brazil, after beating dark horse Nigeria 4-1

      • Felix

        December 6, 2013 at 2:03 am

        Add: i actually think it’s the superpowers, from South America and Europe, who have had a hard time winning away from home. Could look it up but can’t be arsed to.

      • Andre

        December 6, 2013 at 8:31 am

        Denmark went out in the group in South Africa, as did Nigeria, they never played each other. Brazil beat Chile in the round of 16 then went out to the Netherlands.

        HAPPY DRAW DAY1!!!!! AHHHH!!!!!

  3. James

    December 5, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    One of the only things you can be sure of in any soccer tournament, the World Cup included, is that there are always surprises and very little goes according to plan.

    No can predict which teams will be hot and what injuries teams have when the tournament begins. Then during the tournament more uncertainty is in store again with injuries and how well teams are playing.

    Making it to the World Cup is what teams wanted and now that they are there they won’t care which other teams are in their group. Each team will do their best regardless of the competition. And there will be surprises. Did anyone predict the USA to finish first in their group or for Ghana or Uruguay to go as far as they did? I doubt it.

    So it makes little difference which teams end up in a particular group. Like derby games form goes out the window.

  4. Matt

    December 5, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    I’ve gone through a couple of stages of emotions leading up to this tomorrow, and somehow I landed here: I’d almost favor a difficult draw. Not necessarily apocalyptic with Brazil, Holland and France. But I’d rather have a tough group where it will be difficult to advance. However, getting out of a group like that will galvanize the US and hopefully lead to a deep run.

  5. Andre

    December 5, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    No team should take themselves out of the tournament based on the draw. Yes some groups are much,much, much more difficult than others but the game is played on grass not paper. Twice (2002 and 2010) in the last three world cups the defending champions have been ousted in the group stage. And favorites like Argentina 2002 and Czech Republica 2006 have also failed to make it out of groups. Then thre are seemingly modest teams that do. Let’s just wait for the tournament and enjoy it.

  6. R.O

    December 5, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    Sorry, there are a number of points in the article I strongly disagree with. They are:

    “Walking out of the 2006 World Cup Draw in Germany, Bruce Arena knew that the United States’ tournament was over before it even started.”

    BS!! One of the main reasons the US didn’t advance out of the group stage was that Bruce Arena did the same thing Steve Sampson did in the 1998 WC, made big changes in tactics and positioned players in their non natural positions and he did it right before the world cup. While the group was challenging, it wasn’t anymore difficult than the group the US was in for the 2002 WC (Portugal, South Korea and Poland).

    Bruce Arena “outsmarted and out thought” himself in 2006. Yes they had some injuries too but overall, the US should have advanced out of the group stage. They played poor for a number of reasons but not due to how difficult the group was.

    Next: “In 2010, the draw in South Africa opened the door for the United States. In a group with a weak England, and minnows Slovenia and Algeria, Bob Bradley’s team flourished and advanced as group winners.”

    Bob Bradley didn’t “flourish”! What a load of crap. Bradley got lucky – plain and simple. Bob kept making the same mistakes over and over with putting in certain players in the back and then had to make substitutions in the 1st half or early 2nd half to fix his tactical mistakes.

    Ok, the US got a “no call” by the ref,(no PK award) but that happens to other teams too (England not given goal vs Germany).

    Landon bailed B. Bradley out in the final group game with a late goal.Without that, the US would not have advance.

    The US should have beaten Ghana in the 2nd round, but again Bradley made the same mistakes with his player choices in defense as he had done in the group stage and it cost the US.

    If the US had advanced, there was a fair chance they could have won against Uruguay. Ghana almost did and the US team was as good if not slightly better than Ghana.

    People in the US have to stop making excuses if the US get a difficult group. When a country makes it to the last 32 teams, it’s all difficult. Yes some groups are less challenging than others but eventually the team will face a very tough team in either the 2nd round or quarters.

    Klingsman is a far better coach then Arena or Bradley (and Sampson). JK has been there as a player and coach (high expectations for Germany always no matter which group they are in)and knows what it takes, the pressure and how to handle it, he won’t make the same silly tactical decisions that the previous US coaches made (my opinion).

    Yes if the US gets Brazil and Netherlands or one of the other top teams, it will be challenging but that’s the same thing that was said in 2002.

  7. Flyvanescence

    December 5, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    Beware Japan. Im pretty sure the top teams would rather draw the USA than Japan.

  8. Pakapala

    December 5, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    I like how many seem to underestimate Switzerland. Do so at your own risk. They are a very hard team to beat and have been improving years after years like Belgium.

    • krazymunky

      December 5, 2013 at 2:26 pm

      I dont think anyone is underestimating the Swiss. However of all the teams in pot 1. they are probably the weakest.

    • gillyrosh

      December 5, 2013 at 5:54 pm

      Yup. I keep thinking, am I the only one who remembers their win over Spain in South Africa?

  9. TheDuke

    December 5, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Of course other countries don’t fear the US national team. Fear in sports is a very american concept and it is monumentally stupid. You have no control over who you are drawn against in the world cup or any othere tournament. Maybe who you are drawn against affects team selection but i tend to doubt it. Klinsmann should be worried about finding his best team that plays well together and can score some goals. The U.S. team in 2006 got a tough draw but they also played crap football. In 2010 they should have qualified for the knockout stages easily they got totally jobbed out of a win against Slovenia. And they lost a cracking game to a Ghana team that was a Suarez hand away from the Semis.

  10. Clampdown

    December 5, 2013 at 11:49 am

    There really is no point in worrying about this stuff. The US wasn’t expected to be able to compete with Portugal in 2002, yet came out with a win. The US wasn’t expected to beat Spain in the Confederations Cup a few years back, but they did that, too. The US has shown many times over the past decade that they can give the best teams in the world a run for their money.

    I understand there still isn’t much respect for the US National Team outside our borders. So, hopefully they’ll prove the doubters wrong in Brazil.

    Either way, looking forward to the draw.

  11. USA Fan

    December 5, 2013 at 11:10 am

    The current odds show the teams you want to draw/avoid. The one that sticks out for me is Columbia. 8th favs at 25/1. Just because they are South American?

    1 Brazil 7/2
    2 Germany 11/2
    3 Argentina 6
    3 Spain 6
    5 Belgium 16
    6 Holland 22
    6 Italy 22
    8 Colombia 25
    9 England 28
    10 Uruguay 30
    11 France 33
    11 Portugal 33
    13 Chile 50
    14 Russia 90
    15 Croatia 150
    15 Mexico 150
    15 Ivory Coast 150
    18 Switzerland 175
    18 Japan 175
    20 Ghana 200
    20 USA 200
    20 Bosnia-Herzegovina 200
    23 Ecuador 225
    24 Greece 275
    25 Nigeria 300
    26 South Korea 600
    26 Australia 600
    28 Cameroon 800
    29 Algeria 3000
    29 Costa Rica 3000
    31 Iran 3500
    32 Honduras 6000

    • Dan

      December 5, 2013 at 11:16 am

      Colombia has a great team. Quintero, Falcao, James Rodriguez, Muriel, Zapata, and Arias. Those are all really good players and they beat Belgium 2-0 the same. Belgium that beat up the Usa

      • USA Fan

        December 5, 2013 at 11:21 am

        Sure, they have some good players. Every year a South American side are hyped as the ‘next big thing’ and they usually flop though.

        France & Portugal at 33/1 seem a better bet to me than Columbia at 25/1.

        Wonder how much the draw will affect the odds? We’ll see tomorrow!

        • Dan

          December 5, 2013 at 1:55 pm

          I’m. American to bro. Not hating on us just saying they look a great team. France not so much imo and if Ronaldo gets injured Portugal aren’t even in contention.

          • Andre

            December 5, 2013 at 6:29 pm

            Colombia are absolutely loaded with firepower, have a coach who understands how to use it, and looked exceptional inqualifying. Plus its in their neighborhood. I don’t see them winning the tournament but the odds seem fine to me.

  12. Taylor

    December 5, 2013 at 10:55 am

    In other threads I put the best chance would be Columbia, Ecuador/Chile and Greece because they are not tournament team and I got thumbs down LOL.

  13. USA Fan

    December 5, 2013 at 9:55 am

    If you read other forums fans of most other countries really do NOT want to draw the USA out of pot 3.

    The USA can give anyone a good game on the day. Let other countries worry about playing us – not about us playing them.

    • Dan

      December 5, 2013 at 11:13 am

      Germany Brazil and Spain don’t fear playing the USA at all.

      • USA Fan

        December 5, 2013 at 11:25 am

        I’m sure they don’t FEAR the USA but they’d prefer not to draw them from pot 3.

  14. yespage

    December 5, 2013 at 9:42 am

    The US flourished in 2010? They struggled to put the ball into wide open nets. They barely beat Algeria in a game that they should have easily beaten Algeria.

    If the US wants to play with the big boys, they can’t be hoping to make it to an elimination round by playing against the tiny tots.

  15. Chris in Dallas

    December 5, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Best case:

    -Switzerland (I’d want to avoid all South American teams in a South American World Cup, but that’s just me.

    Worst case: almost everything else…

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