Three years of work comes down to three games.
Seems about fair.
But, that’s how the World Cup rolls when the best 32 soccer-playing nations in the world gather once every 48 months to determine who is the best of the best.
First things first, your team must make it through Group play, which means you face each of the other three teams in your designated group, with the top two teams advancing to the knock-out round.
It’s highly unlikely this year’s edition of the U.S. National team can win Group G, what with Germany, Portugal and Ghana also in the same group as our American side.
Lots of folks think the U.S. can’t make it out of the Group.
I completely disagree.
Without question, the first game next Monday (6pm) against Ghana is almost an elimination game for Jurgen Klinsmann’s team. A win over Ghana and the Americans are in great shape heading into the Portugal (Sunday, June 22) and Germany (June 26) contests.
A loss to Ghana would all but doom the U.S., as it would likely require some combination of a win and a tie in the final two Group games to have a chance of moving on.
This Ghana game on Monday night is huge.
The skinny on the American team is this: They appear to be much more dangerous offensively than in year’s past, but also more vulnerable defensively. The U.S. goalkeeper, Tim Howard, is a solid netminder, but not a guy capable of standing on his head for three games and single-handedly taking his team into the knock-out stage.
It’s a different American side than we’ve seen before, where the general rule-of-thumb was basically to scratch out a goal and then hold on for dear life.
This 2014 team is more creative with the ball, faster without it and can move up and down the field with much more poise than ever before. Their strength in the offensive end might very well come down to their ability on set pieces, meaning corner kicks and direct kicks after fouls committed against them. This is where the U.S. is better than they’ve been in the past and could be the way they sneak out an improbable win against one of their superior opponents in the Group stage.
I think the Americans are going to make it out of Group play.
I think they’ll beat Ghana 3-2 in the opener on Monday night. I know, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Drew, how on earth are they going to score three goals?” I’ll give you two reasons why: Bradley and Dempsey. I’m not saying they’re going to actually score all three goals, but with those two offensive players leading the way, the U.S. will produce their best offensive effort of group play against a Ghana team more than willing to go up and down the field with them.
That sets the stage for a huge game against Portugal, who will probably be 0-1 at the time after losing to Germany in their Group G opener.
I’ll call that one a 1-1 draw.
And then, with the Germans already secure in Group play after beating Portugal and Ghana, I’ll say the Americans produce another 1-1 draw and earn the necessary points to move on from the group stage.
It won’t be all that exciting, since ties sort of don’t really decide anything, but it will be exciting to see the team advance into the knock-out stage.
From there, it will likely be a quick exit in the elimination round that follows.
BTW, I’ll take Argentina to win the whole thing. It’s tough to do a “bracket” for the World Cup before it all starts because you don’t know the seeding going into the knock-out stage. In other words, I’m going to say Argentina beats Germany in the Final, but those two might very well meeting up earlier depending on seeding.
That said, just for kicks (see what I did there?), I’ll take Argentina, Germany, Brazil and the upstarts from Chile to complete the Final Four of this year’s World Cup.