Friday, December 09, 2005

Ah, Crap!

The US drew a tough, tough, tough group today for next summer's World Cup in Germany. It's already being called "The Group of Death". The US will play the Czech Republic, Italy and Ghana (in that order) in the first round next June. The top two teams in that group will advance to the next round where it will only get tougher.

The team that finishes second in the US' group (Group E) will play the first place team in Group F which is likely to be Brazil. The winner of Group E though will have an easier match against probably either Croatia or Japan. However, winning a group that includes Italy, Ghana and the Czech Republic is going to be extremely difficult.

Italy is well-known as a powerhouse and their current squad is no exception. The US has never beaten Italy in their five matches. The odd thing about Italy is their habit of doing the absolute minimum to advance out of the first round. In the past, they have played below expectations in the first round but still well enough to squeak by. So, if Italy repeats this pattern, perhaps that'll open up the chance for one of the other teams to take first place.

The Czech Republic were one of the best teams in Euro 2002 before losing in the semis to eventual champs, Greece. They finished second in their qualifying group but the team that took first place was the high-flying Dutch squad. These guys will be tough for the US. My only optimism comes from my faith in Bruce Arena. Our first match will be against the Czechs and if you give Arena six months to prepare for any match, he'll figure out a way to be competitive. We'll still need some luck with injuries and whatnot but this will be a tight game and we'll have a chance of taking some points.

Ghana is a bit of a wild-card. They have a number of very good players playing for top teams in Europe like Michael Essien at Chelsea, Fenerbah├že's Stephen Appiah, Udinese's Sulley Ali Muntari and Vitesse's Matthew Amoah. However, we'll be playing them last and if Italy and the Czechs have already beaten them, Ghana may not have anything to play for, be dispirited and easier to beat.

So, basically, I'm hoping for a strong tactical perparation against the Czechs and unfocused, sub-par performances from Italy and Ghana for us to grab the top slot in the group. It's possible but it'll be very difficult.

By the way, the US came very, very close to getting into Group G or Group H which looked a lot like the "easiest scenarios" that I laid out in my post earlier this week. Group G includes France, Switzerland, South Korea and Togo. We almost got South Korea slot. Group H is Spain, Ukraine, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. We almost got Saudi Arabia slot. Either of those groups would have been much easier than the one we drew.


Jim said...

Aside from a crap draw, ESPN's coverage before, during, and after the draw was terrible. I was tempted to flip over to Univision several times.

nico said...

What I don't understand is the seemingly "semi-fixed" nature of the draw. I know they aren't going to draw another CONCACAF side with Mexico, but it seems like we should be able to be in any other group. However, after T&T and Costa Rica were drawn they knew where we'd be. That seems like bullshit and only partially random.

Anonymous said...

There's only one way to change the rest of the world's perception about U.S. soccer and you can't do it in the kiddie pool. For the U.S. to get to where it wants to be (i.e. unquestionably the best CONCACAF team), it has to knock off some of the big boys. You get out of this pool and you won't get screwed out of the top seed next time. I'd rather have this group than group C or be in with Brazil.