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U.S. World Cup Group Preview: What We’re Up Against

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The U.S. World Cup draw sucks so bad the Jets are considering drafting it as their next starting quarterback. It’s so bad the CW network is actually giving it its own show starring, in a cruel twist of fate, Landon Donovan’s ex-wife actress Bianca Kajlich. Surviving the group alive is so improbable that Jack Bauer tweeted at Jurgen Klinsmann, “Daaaaaaang.” The U.S. getting grouped with both Germany and Portugal was such a travesty that Michelle Obama organized a hashtag campaign against FIFA’s mistreatment of innocent Americans. #bringournatshome.

Here’s what you need to know about each team in the Group of Death:

Portugal

Nickname: the Seleção (the select)
World ranking: 3
Odds of winning the whole thing: 25/1
Key player: handsome man and 2013’s World Player of the Year, Christiano Ronaldo. Most important to know is that he throws a(n American) football like this. He also dates this girl.
Wildcard factor: European teams historically suck in South America, but Brazil is almost as Portuguese as Canada is American, so they should feel more at home than the rest of the Euro-posers.

Portugal is a sexy sleeper pick for the finals. Ronaldo can make a difference at any time in any game against any opponent, and the U.S. defense will have trouble stopping him. There are questions about his fitness, as he’s struggled for the last couple weeks with a recurring knee injury, so if the U.S. is lucky he might not be at his best. Unfortunately even if we stop him, Portugal has superstars all around the pitch (for you Alabama fans, that’s what we call the field in soccer) including Nani and Bruno Alvez. Each Portuguese player plays for a big team in Europe, so they’re used to soccer at the highest level, and the pressure of the world stage isn’t new to them. Portugal starts out with Germany on Monday, then gets the U.S. Sunday, June 22. If they don’t get a result against Germany they’ll be desperate for all three points against Das Nats.

Germany

Nickname: in typical German fashion, Nationalmannschaft (the national team)
World ranking: 2
Odds of winning the whole thing: 5/1
Key player: the team. Germany has some standout players, but none of this team’s parts are more important than the whole. Their strength is in their lack of any identifiable weakness.
Wildcard factor: this octopus picked Germany to beat Portugal in their opener.

Over the last couple World Cup cycles, Germany has transformed itself (at least partly due to current U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s influence as their coach from 2004-2006) from a hard-hitting brute of a team into a team known for playing “the beautiful game.” They defend well, they attack with flair and they go into every game expecting to win—and they usually do. Expect pretty much everybody the Germans face to get ‘Schafted (consider that term officially coined).

Ghana

Nickname: the Black Stars
World ranking: 37
Odds of winning the whole thing: 150/1
Key player: against the U.S.—history 
Wildcard factor: Ghana has drawn 5 penalties in just 9 total World Cup games. With the hellacious reffing we’ve already seen in this tournament, don’t be surprised if Ghana gets a gift or 3 sometime in the group stage.

If you include the Under-20 World Cup, the U.S. men have ended 3 out of the last 4 World Cups with a loss to Ghana. Let me say that again, because I can tell from your lack of demonstrable reaction that you don’t fully appreciate what I just said. Three out of the last four World Cups that the U.S. men’s national team have played ended with the good guys losing, and the bad Ghanian guys winning. The odds of us even meeting the same team in 3 out of 4 World Cups is staggering, and the idea that we’d lose all 3 matches is unfathomable. Fortunately for Das Nats, we have them this time right where we want them. In our last warm-up game against Nigeria (who are the reigning African champions) the U.S. were firing on all cylinders. And if we win against the Black Stars, we’re in great shape to get out of this unreasonably-hard group, because since 1988, 85% of all teams who won their World Cup opener advanced to the knockout stage.

USA

Nickname: Das Nats (nobody calls them that but me, but I think it’s going to catch on) 
World ranking: 13
Odds of winning the whole thing: 100/1
Key player: Michael Bradley (Professor Xavier
Wildcard factor: We believe that we will win. Also, #bringournatshome.

If you watch this video and don’t feel anything, then the terrorists have already won. The U.S. and their German-American coach, and his German-American players, and the rest of their American-American teammates is the best collection of U.S. players ever. The FIFAlluminati might have conspired to put us in this traveshamockery of a group, but we’ve got the players to make them into fools. The American pro league isn’t the Premier League (and might never be), but it has made huge strides over the last 4 years, raising the level of play of every American player. Bradley has the ability to turn himself into a star as a central midfield general. Fabian Johnson has looked as dangerous coming forward as any defender in the world in the last few games. Striker Clint Dempsey is on fire in Major League Soccer and his likely strike-partner Jozy Altidore looks like he’s shaken his scoring draught. But most importantly, we play soccer like we fight wars: to win.*

My prediction: the U.S. beats Ghana and loses to Portugal. Since Germany’s going to win their first two games, they’ll go into our game against them not needing a result. Klinsmann will give German coach Joachim Löw the super-secret gevurstrumhandschake before the game and the U.S. will pull off the biggest upset of the tournament, advancing to the knockout stage.

 

*Unless we decide that tying is in our best interest—then we tie the crap out of that war.

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.