United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann described his team’s World Cup draw as “the worst of the worst” after it was pooled with Germany, Portugal and Ghana in one of two “Groups of Death.”
Klinsmann could scarcely believe his ill fortune after the draw was made in Bahia, Brazil, with the Americans lumped into Group G and a situation that immediately installed them as long shots to reach the last 16.
To add to his discomfort, Klinsmann’s side also will have to battle a grueling travel schedule, including a visit to the Amazonian jungle city of Manaus with its extreme humidity and hostile weather environment.
“It is one of the most difficult groups of the whole draw,” Klinsmann said. “It couldn’t get any more difficult or any bigger but that is what the World Cup is all about.
“We are looking forward to the challenge and we don’t see ourselves as any kind of outsiders. If you want to get into the top 10 or 12 teams in the world you have to beat these guys.
“We discussed before the draw that there could be some difficult schedules and we hit the worst of the worst. Every coach said, ‘Anything but Manaus’ and we got Manaus.”
Germany is one of the strongest teams in the tournament and reached the semifinal in 2010, while Portugal will be led by Cristiano Ronaldo, currently the world’s best and most dominant player.
Supposedly the weakest opponent, Ghana, eliminated the U.S. at the round of 16 stage four years ago. The Ghanaians also ended the Americans’ 2006 World Cup with a victory in the teams’ final group game.
“After two losses, it’s about time to beat them, I guess,” Klinsmann said.
The Ghana matchup will be the first for the U.S. and is scheduled for Natal on June 16. Portugal follows in Manaus six days later before group action ends against Germany in Recife on June 26.
“I kind of had a feeling in my stomach that we were going to get Germany,” said Klinsmann, who starred for the West Germany national team as it won the 1990 World Cup and later led the German side to the 2006 semifinals on home soil.
The “other” Group of Death is Group B where 2010 finalists Spain and the Netherlands square off in the opening match. Host nation Brazil kicks off the tournament against Croatia in Sao Paulo on June 12.
Brazil – Host nation is a clear favorite to win it all and was the seed no one wanted to meet.
Croatia – Shaky in qualifying and winless in World Cups since 1998; Luka Modric is a shining light.
Mexico – Fortunate to qualify after desperate CONCACAF form pushed it to the brink of elimination.
Cameroon – Lowest-ranked of the African nations after patchy form over the past year.
Spain – Defending champion started slowly in 2010, losing to Switzerland in first game.
Netherlands – 2010 runner-up was somehow unseeded and a team nobody wanted to face.
Chile – Struggled early in qualifying but was near perfect late on and will be a real threat.
Australia – Fired coach Holger Osieck after heavy friendly defeats and comes in with little momentum.
Colombia – Radamel Falcao heads a deep squad keen to shine after missing last three tournaments.
Greece – Not much fun to watch; defensively excellent but short on attacking firepower.
Ivory Coast – Eliminated in the Group of Death last time, Didier Drogba’s back for one last shot.
Japan – Greatly improved team more than capable of creating some shocks against bigger opponents.
Uruguay – Reached the semis four years ago but survived a qualifying scare this time around.
Costa Rica – Qualifying success was built upon outstanding home form, struggles on the road.
England – Lacking in confidence and inspiration and comes in with its lowest expectations in decades.
Italy – Champions in 2006, awful in 2010, full of talent and believes it can go all the way.
Switzerland – Considered the weakest seeded team but a skillful unit capable of going deep.
Ecuador – Clinched a World Cup spot for only the third time and has never gone past the last 16.
France – Scraped through with a playoff comeback, hopes to atone for humiliating 2010 campaign.
Honduras – Has reached two previous World Cups but has yet to record its first victory.
Argentina – Lionel Messi heads a confident team looking to secure first title since 1986.
Bosnia-Herzegovina – The only newcomer in the 32-strong field, highly talented but unpredictable.
Iran – Managed just one point from three games in 2006 and failed to qualify in 2010.
Nigeria – One of the youngest squads in the tournament that should not be underestimated.
Germany – Third in 2010 and aims to build on positive vibe created by its dominant club teams.
Ghana – Knocked out the U.S. in 2010 before being heartbreakingly denied a semifinal spot.
United States – Regarded as the strongest team in its pot after topping CONCACAF group.
Portugal – Cristiano Ronaldo single-handedly won a tense playoff but has yet to shine at World Cup.
Belgium – Reached first World Cup since 2002 after huge improvement and a superb qualifying campaign.
Russia – Finished first in a tough qualifying group that also featured Portugal and Sweden.
Algeria – Bottom of the U.S. group in 2010 and one of the weakest teams, at least on paper.
South Korea – An easy campaign became nail-biting late on; finally booked place on goal differential.