The USMNT’s group was always going to be a dream or a nightmare. After initially landing with tournament-favorites Germany there was a flicker of hope. Maybe, just maybe they could duck another powerhouse.
But since the world moves toward entropic chaos, luck threw in Ghana, the team to eliminate the U.S. in the last two World Cups, and Portugal, home of the world’s best player in Cristiano Ronaldo. The United States literally could not have drawn into a worse group, as it boasts the highest average FIFA ranking of each team (11.25).
Some fans are already packing it in and hoping World Cup 2018 brings better luck, but the Yanks’ opponents are human (mostly), so there is a chance.
Germany. What can be said of Germany that hasn’t already been said of Rob Ford? They’re out of control, wield lots of power and have a reckless disregard for what’s normal. They’re young, yet proven and attack like Hell, knowing that keeper Manuel Neuer has their back.
I could list German player names I don’t know how to pronounce all day and they’d all also happen to be world-class attacking midfielders. World Cup 2010 was the coming out party for Mesut Özil, Euro 2012 marked the arrival of dynamo Marco Reus, and who knows who’ve they got up their sleeve for Rio.
How the U.S. has a chance: Well, they won’t score four goals against Germany like they did this summer because they won’t be playing against reserves. But the U.S. will drop 10 players into defense and hope, pray, wish, and sacrifice animals in hopes that they can walk away with a 0-0 draw and one point.
Ghana. Ghana aren’t very intimidating in and of themselves, but rather because of their knack to get the best of the United States. They don’t have any names that jump off the roster like Germany, but they’re remarkably organized. Their defenders don’t make mistakes, and when they win possession, they’re off to the races.
How the U.S. has a chance: Ghana has regressed since World Cup 2010. The U.S. no longer has to worry about Michael Essien and Kevin-Prince Boateng taking over games all on their own. This is their first game and it is a must-win. A tie would be bad, a loss catastrophic. The Yanks need to trust that they can win on pure talent, and keep those skeletons locked up in the closet.
Portugal. For years they’ve been under pretty harsh vitriol that they’re a one-man team with Cristiano Ronaldo. But it’s not that way anymore, as they’ve quietly grown a physical back line, and João Moutinho’s made Ronaldo’s life a lot easier. And even if that criticism is true, it doesn’t really matter because Ronaldo’s proven he’s good enough to win games all on his, like he did against Sweden last month.
How the U.S. has a chance: Delegate all assets to stopping Ronaldo. The guy averages an unreal goal per game. If they can contain Ronaldo, Portugal’s attack isn’t overly threatening, and the U.S. will need to take their chances when they come against a stingy defense.
Jürgen Klinsmann is the most prolific coach the USMNT’s ever had and while he’s no stranger to World Cup success, but he’s certainly got his work cut out for him. Each game will be a war of attrition, and it may look grim now, but all fans can do is put their trust in Jürgen.