[Not]So Great Expectations
Ready to Kick Off
As I write this, the 2014 Mens World Cup is under way. Host nation Brazil shrugged off an "own goal" to defeat Croatia 3-1.
The Americans' campaign begins Monday against a nation the has been a 2X4 in their side, Ghana. Much like how in 2010, the U.S began their World Cup against England, one wonders if Vince McMahon is behind the schedules.
A Tough Group
Ghana may be the most winnable match of the three the U.S will play. The other two teams in the Group are European powers Germany and Portugal.
These "Groups of Death" are a common problem in World Cups; this may give the United States a glimmer of hope, though. The teams may be playing not to lose. A win and two draws may be enough for the United States to advance.
Up and Down
Of course, there's the United States inconsistent history in the World Cup.
In 1990, we failed to advance past the group stage. In 1994, as the host, we advanced to the round of 16, losing to eventual champion Brazil. In 1998, we failed to advance past the group stage again.
2002 seemed to be a breakthrough for the United States, as we advanced out of group play and into the round of 8, losing to Germany. 2006, though, had us failing to advance.
In 2010, we shocked the world by winning out group with a thrilling, extra-time win over Algeria, and draws against England and Slovenia. We would lose in overtime in the round of 16 to--Ghana.
Odds Against Us
When I find myself in a predicament, I like to look at a best case, worst case, and likely scenario.
For the United States, the best scenario would be two or more wins. We've beaten Portugal in 2002 and Germany in a few friendly matches. That would get us into the knockout rounds.
Worst case is to go 0 for 3, likley this would lead to second-guessing the decision to leave Landon Donovan off the team, and may send the United States looking to replace their coach.
A more likley case is the win and two draws, or even 3 draws. As I said a win and two draws, might be enough to get us into the playoffs. Three draws would be a moral victory, and may give us something to go on for 2018.
A Solid Start
The United States got a bit of help from Germany, who dominated Portugal 4-0.
Perhaps that win took some pressure off the United States as 30 seconds into their match, Clint Dempsey put a shot past Ghana's goalie to give the U.S a 1-0 lead. That lead would hold up until the 82nd minute, when Ghana drew even.
The United States would literally use their head to get that goal back, as a header from substitute John Brooks would give the U.S a 2-1 victory and 3 points in their group.
The United States stands tied for first, with 3 points and a +1 goal differential. Next task is Portugal, who will either be down or looking to take out their frustration.
We Had 'em
But we let them get away. That classic quote from Dennis Green may sum up the recent US-Portugal match. The U.S spotted Portugal an early 1-0 lead when the U.S was unable to clear the ball out of their end, but tied the game and took a 2-1 lead into stoppage time.
In stoppage time, Portugal managed to put a goal in and salvage a tie.
Ghana may have actually helped the U.S cause when they tied Germany. The table still puts Germany and the United States, who will play each other on the 26th, at the top and both heading to the knockout round.
For the U.S to get left out, they would have to lose to Germany by more than two goals and Ghana beat Portugal by more than 2 goals. I expect Germany and the US to basically play not to lose, but would not be surprised if Portugal and Ghana play with the energy of a knockout game.