Because of the disparity in talent between the top teams in the world and the rest of us meager folks, the World Cup is basically decided by a random draw. The US was already behind the proverbial 8 ball before the draw even started. The Fighting Clint Dempseys were lumped in a pot with the rest of CONCACAF and the developing, yet weak, Asian sector. Things never look good when you’re the best team in the pot. While I thank God we are not in the Italy, Uruguay and England group like our Costa Rican brethren, things definitely could’ve gone better. Not all is lost though.
Ghana is an opponent that’s had our number the last decade, yet this is the country we have to pin our hopes on. Portugal and Germany square off in an opening match, meaning this one against the African giants is our lynch pin match. While we can’t predict what will happen in Ronaldo vs The Fatherland, the US can make a statement early. 3 points against the Black Stars will at least put us in a tie at the top of the group. Hopefully it’s a tie with the Germans.
The Stars and Stripes next match up will be against Fo-Hawk and company. The best player in the world can and should terrify a US backline that has been makeshift and shaky at best. However, not all hope is lost. While Portugal has done well at previous World Cups there are questions in their squad. Before Ronaldo willed Selecção das Quinas past Ibra’s Swedish side, the Portuguese struggled massively. They drew against Northern Ireland and Israel, and squeaked an away win against a dreadful Luxembourg during qualification. If Ronaldo is for some reason off his game, The Yanks do have a decent shot at the draw and with some help from above, 3 points.
Let’s take the safe optimistic route and say we manage a draw against the Portuguese. Now the Stars and Stripes go from the “lucky to go through” to the “cautiously optimistic” category. After two matches the “Group of Death” would look like this:
- Germany 6 Points
- United States 4 Points
- Portugal 1 Point
- Ghana 0 Points
This scenario would see Outlaws everywhere crowded around their televisions, but not watching the game you’d expect them to be. Realistically we don’t stand a chance against the Germans, who would still be playing to win the group. The Germans are too deep and strong in the midfield to even consider the Americans more than a gnat buzzing in their ears as they win the group. No, American fans will be watching the Portuguese square off against the Ghanananains. Ghanaites? Ghanaes? Whatever they are playing the team from Ghana. The Black Cats are a solid side and if they squeeze a point or a win out of a pressing Portuguese side, they would save some face on the world stage. People forever would remember the little Ghana team that knocked out the Portuguese. Even if they don’t win or draw, the US could still advance on goal differential against the Portuguese and we would find ourselves in the promise land.
Many of you have stopped reading my overly optimistic article or have wrote it off as a lot of ifs. However, this is
sport. Sports don’t need me to sit here and write about a hypothetical dramatic scenario that would see the American flag creep through the group stage. Sport does that writing itself. No one counted the Americans contenders in the 2010 Winter Olympics, yet our hockey team willed itself to the finals. No one would bet that Chelsea would get through Barcelona and Bayern Munich in 2012 to win a Champions League final, but they did. All I am saying is there is a chance for our survival. Yes, we are going to have to play better than we ever had. A lot better than what we just showed against Scotland and Austria. But isn’t that why we love these big tournaments?
For you Americans that don’t watch soccer let me tell you something. It’s an honor to be in the group of death. The fact that the rest of the world ranks us that high means a lot. While the Germans and Portuguese are favorites to go through and the Ghanaians (looked it up that time) seem to be our Kryptonite, there is still hope. It is a glimmer in an endless abyss but yet it’s still there. I say bring on June and Brazil! USA USA USA USA!