As soon as the group draws for Brazil 2014 were announced, U.S. soccer fans let out a collective groan. We were, it could be heard across the pitches of America, doomed. However, after looking at all the teams and contemplating the individual match ups, a different perspective emerges: we have a great chance to advance. Let’s look at the teams in our Group, provide some prognostication on game-by-game scoring and chart a path to the knockout rounds.
It starts with Portugal. While they have never won a World Cup, they are a very strong side that has consistently challenged in this quadrennial slugfest. Their team captain, Cristiano Ronaldo, defines the term world-class player. Their Robin to Ronaldo as Batman, Nani, has honed his skills in the EPL at Manchester United. He is great, but he can have spells of bad form. Their best defender is Pepe, a Real Madrid standout with a reputation for doing what it takes to win –including infamously kicking Messi in the face. There is talent here, but in the end a leaky back line gives the U.S team a 2-1 win.
The German national team is always a contender. They made it to the semi-finals in the 2010 World Cup and also the Euro 2012. Once again in 2014, they seem poised for a title run. Maneul Neur, goalkeeper for Bayer Munich, is one of the best in the world. In addition, Phillip Lahm is a consistent winner that thrives on the world stage. He will captain the team, and along with Mesut Ozil, deliver a close victory, 1-0. U.S. soccer fans might not like that answer. However, as Gary Lineker, the brilliant English footballer turned BBC commentator once said, “Football is a simple game. 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and, at the end, the Germans win.”
Finally, there is the Republic of Ghana, an African nation with less than 25 million people. The U.S. will be looking for revenge after falling to Ghana in the 2010 World Cup. Asamoah Gyan, the team captain of the black stars, has followed a rocky road. After missing a penalty in the African Cup, Gyan decided to quit the international team. However, on his return, he was made team captain. While the U.S. should be positioned for success, Ghana is always a contender and not a team you should count on beating. Nonetheless, America wins 2-1 with Zusi and Donovan finding the net.
Football is a beautiful game and there is nothing prettier that watching World Cup soccer. U.S. pundits need to stop whining and start thinking about winning. The U.S. has a great opportunity to advance with wins over Portugal and Ghana. And once you are in the knockout round, anything can happen.