Why the U.S. Can Advance in the World Cup
If you’re not a soccer fan, you can click away from this post now. There’s nothing for you to read here. I am a soccer fan, and I know a lot of others who are, too. Sure, the U.S. media wants you to believe we don’t really exist. But we do. Don’t believe it? Take a second after you're done with this post to check out an interesting article from TheStreet.com.
Anyway, this week, the world’s best sporting tournament, the World Cup, gets rolling in Brazil. Those of us who follow these things know the questions surrounding this edition of the competition. Is Brazil ready? Maybe not in the way the world had hoped they would be. But I will guarantee once the games get going and the focus is truly, solely on soccer, the world will find Brazil is ready enough.
For fans in this country, the big question is how the U.S. team is going to perform. Every World Cup has a so-called “Group of Death” and this time around everyone seems to think that’s the one the U.S. is in. Their opening round of games pits them against Ghana (who has beaten them in the last two World Cups), Portugal (with reigning FIFA player of the year, Cristiano Ronaldo), and perennial powerhouse Germany (who have won the World Cup three times, finished runners-up four times and taken third place on an additional four occasions). Still, I am hopeful that the U.S. team will get through, and here’s why:
1. Good build-up to the Cup – The U.S. team played three friendly matches over the past few weeks in preparation for the World Cup. For the first time, they won all three of their pre-Cup warm-up matches. And, while Azerbaijan isn’t a soccer power by any means, wins against Turkey (who barely missed out on qualification for this year’s World Cup) and Nigeria (who is playing at the World Cup) will have built team confidence and gotten the team in the right mindset.
2. Solid team cohesion – As news has surfaced of other national teams having some player personality issues and conflicts, the U.S. has been largely free from those kind of distractions. Jurgen Klinsmann’s decision to leave Landon Donovan off the roster caused some waves among longtime U.S. soccer fans, but by doing it a few weeks ago he was able to let the story largely run its course in the media long before the squad touched down in Brazil. Add to that the fact that there are few expectations of the team from the soccer community at-large, and the U.S. team is actually in a good place coming into the Cup.
3. A good draw within the draw – Yes, they may well be playing in the “Group of Death,” but U.S. fans have got to like the order in which the U.S. team is playing its opponents. First up is Ghana, and let’s be frank – the U.S. needs to beat Ghana to have any real chance of advancing out of the group stage. Both teams will probably have some first match jitters, but you have to figure the U.S. team has a serious revenge factor working in their favor. Next up, Portugal – but without a full-strength Ronaldo, who has missed the team’s warm-up matches. Portugal are a world force with Ronaldo in the line-up, but without him they are not as dangerous – still good, but not as good. Finally, the U.S. faces Germany. Hopefully, it will be a case of “mission accomplished” by then – either for the U.S. or for Germany!
So, there you go. Three things that the U.S. team has in its favor heading into World Cup 2014. Of course, they could get crushed by Ghana, and then follow suit against Portugal and Germany, and come home early. But that’s what’s great about the Cup. Every team had to work hard and win a lot of games just to qualify, and once they get there you never know what can happen.