So it’s the Group of Megadeath for Jurgen, Landon, Clint, and Tim. Every Euro pundit and more than a few Americans have dismissed the US’s chances of advancing out of hand. There was much moaning to be heard, especially when you look at some of the other groups we could have drawn – particularly Mexico’s spot in Group A (with Brazil, Croatia, and Cameroon), or Honduras’ spot in Group E (with Switzerland, France, and Ecuador), or Group H, aka the Group of Life (USA could have drawn with Belgium, Algeria, and Russia).
But, if you listened to players interviewed, like Tim, Clint, and Jozy Altidore, you didn’t hear any whining. You didn’t get a sense of intimidation. It was more a sense of shrugging the shoulders and digging in for battle. More than a few folks reacted like this.
In Beemsville, our initial reaction was it could have been worse. Second reaction was: Ghana – we have something for your punk ass… Most will recall that Ghana put us out of the last two World Cups. And it just so happens we open with Ghana. That first game is so, so vital – the one for which you schemed and plan and prepare for months. Silver lining here is playing your most beatable opponent first. Teams that get three points from their first win are always more likely to advance. Ghana’s defense is questionable, and Juregen’s team has shown more propensity for scoring over the last year. If you have to open with someone from the GoM, let it be Ghana.
Portugal in the Jungle. The next game against Portugal will be played in the Amazon, in the town of Manaus. The conditions are likely to be fairly sweltering and poor, and the Portuguese are likely to be reeling after an opening match against Germany. Team America, meanwhile, has played in tropical conditions plenty of times: the annual trips to Costa Rica and Honduras come to mind. If you’re going to play Ronaldo and Company, play them in bad conditions, when their morale is questionable. This game could be ugly, chippy – a swampy slogging battle of attrition. That would suit the Red, White, and Blue just fine. In a battle of will and toughness, you have to like our chances.
Finally, Ze Germans. If you’re going to play Germany, play them on the last day of the group stages. You’re hoping they’ve taken six points off the first two matches, have already qualified for the next round, and will rest some of their key players against the US. Earlier this year, Jurgen proved he could beat a German B-side. If fortune smiles upon us, we could be heading into this match needing only a draw to advance. It’s a tall order, but you have to play the top teams at some point.
So the order and venue for the Group of Megadeath is a silver lining. So too the relative pressure now facing our team. With so many writing off the US, they can adopt the familiar role of underdog. Expectations have certainly tapered in the media and the public. And finally, if we can make it out of the GoM, the matchups in the first knockout rounds are likely to be more favorable.