Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. Team Faces Daunting Task; World Cup Draw Pits Team against Ghana, Portugal and Germany

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. Team Faces Daunting Task; World Cup Draw Pits Team against Ghana, Portugal and Germany

Article excerpt

The U.S. has a very tough draw for next year's World Cup: difficult opponents, tropical venues and a wearying 9,000-mile zigzag journey across Brazil.

The Americans wound up with the potentially punishing group they feared and will play Ghana, Portugal and Germany next June as they try to achieve a U.S. first: reaching the knockout phase twice in a row.

While Ghana eliminated the Americans in 2006 and 2010, the Black Stars won't do it again. The U.S. opens its seventh straight World Cup appearance against Ghana on June 16 at Natal.

The U.S. meets Portugal and 2008 FIFA player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo six days later in the Amazon rain forest city of Manaus. The Americans have just three off days to recover before closing Group G on June 26 in Recife against three-time champion Germany.

"I think we have the quality, if we play our best ball, to get out of the group," U.S. captain Clint Dempsey said after Friday's draw set the eight four-nation groups. "You can't think about, 'Am I the favorite? Am I the underdog? What's it going to be like playing in the heat? What's it going to be like with the travel?' Those are factors that come into it, but at the end of the day both teams have to deal with it."

After having the shortest group-play travel in South Africa, the U.S. will have the longest in Brazil. The Americans will be based in Sao Paulo and face trips of 1,436 miles to Natal, 1,832 miles to Manaus and 1,321 miles to Recife. They will play all three games in the tropics, with the second and third matches in the afternoon.

The U.S. group has the best average FIFA world ranking. Odds on the Americans winning their first World Cup more than doubled, from 60-1 to 150-1.

"I think the team's mentality is that we can go and play with anybody," American defender Matt Besler said. "Now we're going to have to prove it."

The U.S. will train at home from mid-May until early June and plans a series of exhibition games, which probably will include England as an opponent, before heading to Brazil.

"Everybody is saying that this is the 'Group of Death' and it's such a hard challenge," former American captain John Harkes said. "I still think that the U.S. can rise to the occasion."



Group A

Brazil * Croatia

Mexico * Cameroon

THURSDAY, JUNE 12: At Sao Paulo - Brazil vs. Croatia, 3 p.m.

FRIDAY, JUNE 13: At Natal, Brazil - Mexico vs. Cameroon, 11 a.m.

TUESDAY, JUNE 17: At Fortaleza, Brazil - Brazil vs. Mexico, 2 p.m.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 18: At Manaus, Brazil - Croatia vs. Cameroon, 2 p.m.


At Brasilia, Brazil - Brazil vs. Cameroon, 3 p.m.

At Recife, Brazil - Croatia vs. Mexico, 3 p.m.

Group B

Spain * Netherlands

Chile * Australia


At Salvador, Brazil - Spain vs. Netherlands, 2 p.m.

At Cuiaba, Brazil - Chile vs. Australia, 5 p.m.


At Rio de Janeiro - Spain vs. Chile, 5 p.m.

At Porto Alegre, Brazil - Netherlands vs. Australia, 11 a. …

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