By DAN KARELL
Out of all the thousands of possible permutations in the 2014 World Cup draw, the U.S. Men’s National Team arguably ended up with the worst draw out of all 32 teams.
As if being placed in Group G with Germany, Ghana, and Portugal wasn’t tough enough, the U.S. plays all three of their group stage matches in the north and northeast of Brazil, where they’ll be greeted with high temperatures and stifling humidity. With the nearly 9,000 miles of travel that the USMNT will have to take during the group stage alone and the difficulty of their opponents on paper, it would be easy for head coach Jurgen Klinsmann to admit that he’s worried about his team’s chances.
Instead, Klinsmann is doing his best to think on the bright side, citing the team’s record 2013 calendar year as proof that they’re ready to take a step forward.
“I’m not worried at all,” Klinsmann told U.S. Soccer about being in one of the toughest groups in the tournament. “I’ll just take it the way it is and we’re going to prepare the best way and we’re going to be well prepared for the World Cup. We’ll build up confidence and believe that we can get good results to get into the next round. We’ll do our homework on Portugal, Germany and Ghana.
“We’re excited about this, big time. That’s where you want to be in a World Cup. It’s a difficult draw but we’ll find a way to go through it.”
Of the many story lines in play at this World Cup, one that quickly stood out was the opportunity for Klinsmann to face his friend Joachim Löw and his native Germany in the group stage. Klinsmann of course was the head coach of Germany from 2004 until the end of the 2006 World Cup, where his right-hand man was Löw. After Klinsmann left, Löw took over and has lead the German squad to a third-place finish at the 2010 World Cup, second-place at Euro 2008, and a semifinals place at Euro 2012.
As soon as Germany and Ghana were paired together, it almost seemed as if fate had it in for the U.S. to join them and continue the narrative.
“I kind of had in my stomach that we were going to get Germany,” Klinsmann said You know I wanted Brazil in the opening game, but obviously it’s one of the most difficult groups in the whole draw. Having Portugal with Cristiano Ronaldo and then Ghana who has a history with the United States, it couldn’t get any more difficult or any bigger but that’s what the World Cup is about, it’s a real challenge and we’ll take it, we’ll take it on and hopefully we’re going to surprise some people there.”
Klinsmann admitted following the draw that after discussions with many of the other World Cup head coaches, they all agreed that the last place they wanted to play would be in Manaus. The capital of the Brazilian state Amazonas, Manaus is the definition of playing in a tropical rainforest. And with concerns about travel, an unfinished stadium, and the reported need to take malaria pills, it’s no surprise that most teams had hoped to avoid making that trip.
“It is what it is,” Klinsmann said. “We don’t complain. We take it on. We do the traveling and we adjust to the climate. This is what a World Cup is about, it’s about these challenges. It’s exciting in certain ways, and a big challenge. That’s what we want.