The Full 90

For U.S., Group of Death could mean Group of Revenge

Updated: 2013-12-06T18:10:55Z

Charles Gooch

The Kansas City Star

Americans like challenges. Americans also like underdog stories.

The World Cup draw on Friday delivered both with the U.S. men's national team drawn into a group with Germany, Ghana and Portugal.

Is it the Group of Death? Probably. But it's definitely the Group of Revenge.

Germany or Ghana have eliminated the United States from the last three World Cups — Germany took out the U.S. in the quarterfinals in '02, Ghana won the last group-stage game against the U.S. in '06 and then put the dagger to the Yanks in the Round of 16 in '10.

Germany is one of the deepest and most technically-gifted teams in the world. Ghana has been consistently the most impressive African nation at this stage. And Portugal has a player you might have heard of before: Cristiano Ronaldo.

Many fans were fearing the worst and, while this is pretty bad, it's to be expected. The World Cup is a tough tournament to win even under the best circumstances. Since 1994, the United States has a record of 4-5-13.

It's not just hard for the Americans. Also since 1994, only six teams have reached the World Cup finals: Brazil (three times), France (twice), Italy (twice), Germany, Spain and the Netherlands.

Two of those teams, Spain and the Netherlands, will play each other in the group stage in 2014.

The United States will open against Ghana on June 16 in Natal — in extreme eastern Brazil. That game will be the key — a win combined with Germany splitting the points with Portugal would be a huge leg up.

After that, the United States will travel a long way to face Portugal on June 22 in Manaus (on the Amazon River in central Brazil), then another long trip to back to the eastern coast to face Germany on June 26 in Recife. According to Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl, the Americans have the longest travel schedule of any team in the Cup.

The United States qualified after finishing on top of CONCACAF qualifying.

Germany qualified as a seeded team, moving through qualification without a single loss (and a +26 goal differential).

Ghana ousted Egypt from the World Cup by winning a two-leg playoff with an aggregate score of 7-3.

Portugal finished one point behind Russia in the qualifying group stage and had to beat Sweden in a two-leg playoff.

It was always going to be an uphill challenge for a soccer underdog. Now, at least, we know exactly what the challenge is.

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