In less than a month, 32 teams will descend on Brazil with hopes of winning the 2014 World Cup. Familiar favorites include defending champions Spain, Germany, Argentina and, of course, the host nation of Brazil.
Placed in the "Group of Death," the United States' hopes of advancing to the knockout stage seem slim at best. In the same group (Group G) with Germany, Portugal and Ghana, the U.S. will have to play some inspired soccer to advance.
Everything hinges on the United States' first game of the tournament, June 16 against Ghana. This is a must-win game for Sam's Army if we hope to have any chance to advance.
Three draws will do the U.S. no good in this group. Three points against Ghana could go a long way to making the round of 16.
On the same day the U.S. plays Ghana, Germany and Portugal will play the opening game of Group G play. The winner (if there is one) will be in the driver's seat to win the group.
Germany is probably the favorite to win the group, and Portugal is a strong contender to finish second. The United States does have the ability to escape the Group of Death and move on, but it all starts with game one.
If the U.S. lays an egg against Ghana, the Stars and Stripes will find themselves in a deep hole. It will be almost impossible to defeat both Portugal and Germany.
If the U.S. gets the three points against Ghana, then the team must figure out a way to beat either Germany or Portugal to advance. A draw against the loser of Portugal and Germany's first game might to advancing—but the question is, can the USA score enough goals to advance on goal differential?
The USA play Portugal June 22, a day after Germany plays Ghana. The Yanks finish group play against Germany June 26 as U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann faces the team he once coached.
Beating Portugal is possible since Portugal is less consistent than Germany. The U.S. must keep Cristiano Ronaldo in check, but that is what the team hired Klinsmann for in the first place.
I'm not sure if a bigger flopper, complainer and whiner exists than in Ronaldo, but his talent is not in question. He makes Portugal go, and getting him off his game will be the main objective of the U.S. if the team hopes to pull off the upset.
Playing Germany in the World Cup will be an emotional game for Klinsmann; needing three points to advance will make that game even tougher. It would be best if the U.S. had their ticket to the round of 16 firmly in hand.
It doesn't matter what happens against Germany or Portugal if the U.S. doesn't beat the Black Stars in game one. A loss, and it will be three games and done for Sam's Army.