Tag: World Cup

First Reactions to USA’s World Cup Draw

The World Cup draw is officially behind us, the United States is in the World Cup after missing out four years ago, so how did the USA do in terms of the draw?

There was some hope the USA would be drawn in group G or H so they could open their run on Thanksgiving Day, but they land in Group B, which is the second best schedule hopes as they will begin their run on the first day of the World Cup and get game two on a day most Americans will have off, the day after Thanksgiving.

One tough part of the draw is landing with the European Playoff, so the final member of the group won’t be decided until June.

That first match on Monday, November 21 will be against one of Wales, Scotland, and Ukraine. The most favorable matchup of the group is Scotland, Wales is the best team with the best player in Gareth Bale, but Ukraine could be an interesting opponent as the world (sans-Russia) will be pulling for them given what the country is going through. Realistically, this should be three points for the USA, although a matchup with Wales and Gareth Bale could be problematic.

Match two will be Friday, November 25th against arguably the biggest rival outside of CONCACAF the USA has, England. The last time they faced each other in the World Cup English keeper Robert Green botched a save on an easy shot from Clint Dempsey and the match ended level 1-1. This has all the makings for an incredible watch, as England will certainly be favored, but are by no means a lock to beat the USA. The hope in this match would be for the Americans to lock in a point, but three points are possible as is zero. This will likely be the match that determines the group winner.

The final match of the group stage may be the most favorable matchup in Iran, although history isn’t favorable. The USA and Iran have only faced off twice before, drawing a friendly in 2000 and losing 2-1 in the 1998 World Cup. That said, the best player on Iran is arguably Sardar Azmoun, the forward who recently moved to Bayern Leverkusen. Azmoun has scored 40 goals in 62 appearances for his country and scored 52 goals in 79 matches for Zenit Saint Petersburg. He will be the main focus, but three points for the USA is a must in this matchup.

Assuming USA get through the group stage, being in Group B is a big benefit, as the first knockout round is against Group A, possibly the weakest group in the 2022 World Cup. Qatar and Ecuador will open the World Cup, but neither are truly expected to get out of the group. Therefore the knockout round matchup will most likely be against Senegal or the Netherlands depending on seeding.

Winning Group B is not the most likely outcome, runners-up is most likely, but winning the group could be huge for the USA. Chances are Netherlands wins Group A, a matchup the USA would like to avoid as Senegal would be the preferred matchup. Yes, Sadio Mane can single-handedly end anyone’s run in December, but the rest of the roster simply doesn’t have the depth of Netherlands.

The expectations on USA should be high given the draw. Not getting out of the group stage will be seen as absolute failure by the club. From there any success in the knockout stages will be positive, although a loss in the first knockout game won’t be a negative for the club. That said, a trip to the quarterfinals is something that is certainly not out of the club’s reach.  

2014 World Cup Preview: Group G

Group at a Glance: Germany, Portugal, Ghana, United States. We definitely have a contender for the Group of Death here. Three very tough teams, plus the United States who have shown that when on their game, they can in fact hang with the world’s best. There should be some barnburners in this group, but it’s also another example of how the current system is horribly flawed. When one group has four teams that are better than the seeded teams in some other groups, that’s a problem. However, if you’re grading on entertainment value, this is probably the group to watch. If there’s a common perceived weakness with these teams, it’s strength in defense, so you’re going to see lots of goals.

Favorites to Advance: Germany and Portugal. The obvious isn’t always the way it goes in World Cup soccer, but in this case, it is. Both squads are fielding world-class midfields and loads of big stage experience. And of the four rickety defenses, the US and Ghana are the most vulnerable.

Players to Watch: Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Nani. Who is looking forward to defending these guys? Yeah, I wouldn’t be either. Masterful, the first three, and occasionally so for Nani, the German and Portuguese midfields will be something to behold.

Homer Corner: The United States has its plusses. They have some experience in midfield, some talented players in the world’s top leagues, and a coach in Jurgen Klinsman who has the players’ belief and dedication. That said, there are too many question marks. The unproven Omar Gonzales and Clarence Goodson take over central defense from the dependable duo of Carlos Bocanegra and Jay Demerit. Inexplicably, DaMarcus Beasley, who long ago sailed past the last port of international soccer relevance, is deemed to be the best option at left back. God only knows who replaces the criminally underrated Steve Cherundolo at right back. Geoff Cameron? Michael Parkhurst? Timothy Chandler? Eric Lichaj? It doesn’t appear to be a winning combo. Veteran Clint Dempsey provides some scoring punch up front, and if they move Landon Donovan to the wing, where he’s better suited, and pair Dempsey with Jozy Altidore at forward, they may score enough to edge a result over Ghana. But sadly, the group stage is where it will end for the stars and stripes in 2014.

2014 World Cup Preview: Group F

Group at a Glance: Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, and Nigeria.  There are several groups in the running for group of death, this is not one of them.  Argentina currently sits at third in the world according to FIFA standings, with Bosnia-Herzegovina coming in at 19, Iran at 33, and Nigeria at 37. This group probably has the least amount of total talent of all the groups.

Favorites to Advance: If Argentina does not go through the group stage with nine points, they have failed.  They should win the group easy and the battle is for second.  Bosnia-Herzegovina is the initial favorite to be the second team out of the group, but their biggest competition might be Nigeria.  Iran may be ranked higher than Nigeria in the current FIFA standings, but Nigeria is the better team.

Player(s) to Watch: It is very easy, and correct, to say the player to watch is Lionel Messi for Argentina.  He is the best player in the world and it really isn’t all that close.  When not watching in awe of Messi, the other guy to keep an eye on is Edin Dzeko from Bosnia-Hezegovina.  Dzeko has teamed with Sergio Aguero at Manchester City to create arguably the best striking duo in the Premiership, and that comes from a United supporter.

You can follow Shaun Kernahan on twitter @shaunkernahan, add him to your network on Google, and like Shaun on Facebook.

2014 World Cup Preview: Group D

Group at a Glance: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, and Italy.  The World Cup in theory is the 32 best countries in the world battling in a single tournament, so tough groups are to be accepted, and this is another one.  Behind the likes of my single least favorite footballer in the world, Luis Suarez, Uruguay is a tough out, although the back of their starting eleven is much weaker than the front of it.  Italy and England are European power houses that could very easily been one of the eight ranked teams ahead of such teams as Belgium, but instead they find themselves in the same group.  Costa Rica is no slouch, and they will certainly be happy the World Cup is being played in Brazil and not Denver, where they lost an epic match to the USA in a blizzard.

Favorites to Advance: Uruguay is the ranked team, so naturally they get the initial nod as a favorite to advance, but it won’t be easy.  England and Italy will battle it out for what will likely be the second spot, but just one of them pulling off a win against Uruguay could lead to both teams getting out of the group.  That said, if I were a betting man, which I tend to be, my money would probably be on Uruguay and Italy, but I wouldn’t feel confident in it.

Player(s) to Watch: There was a fantastic piece early this year in ESPN the Magazine regarding the Italian football fans view on minorities on the pitch, but they will have to put aside the large amount of racism, because their hopes and dreams rely on the right foot of Mario Balotelli.  Since I can’t bring myself to say Luis Suarez is a player to watch, unless it is to get you angry at the TV after he takes another dive and rips into the refs for not calling the invented foul, Wayne Rooney facing up Gigi Buffon is a matchup to watch.  Buffon will be between the pipes in what will likely be his final World Cup, and his performance against the English strikers just may determine which squad moves on.

You can follow Shaun Kernahan on twitter @shaunkernahan, add him to your network on Google, and like Shaun on Facebook.