Monday, 6pm EST on ESPN
USA versus Ghana
Three games decide the two teams that will advance to the knockout rounds. Group G. USA, Ghana, Portugal, Germany. The Group of Death.
(If you like tactics and strategy, click on the team name links for a great breakdown of each team by Zonal Marking.)
USA. Let's be clear, the USA is not expected to survive this group. We are an up-and-coming team but we still have a ways to up-and-come before we'll be a contender. But we're improving, and the sport finally seems to be seeing some legitimate growth here in the states. Major League Soccer has had higher attendance on average than the NBA and NHL for the past several years. (You may want to read that last sentence again, it's surprisingly true). The question is, will we be able to turn the corner and shock everyone this year, or is this year just good practice for 2018?
Ghana. A good team but not a great team. We should have every expectation of beating them, except that they have knocked us out of the last two World Cups. Our Achilles heel if you will. Let's hope that third time's the charm and we prevail. Needed result: Win.
Portugal. Cristiano Ronaldo is Portugal, and Cristiano is hurt. He has a bum knee to go along with his bum hamstring and left practice early with an ice pack today. We have a chance. (We actually have a chance anyway since Portugal had a rough go of qualifying) Needed result: Win or Tie.
Germany. Germany is probably the best team in the world. It has top players like Özil, Mertesacker, Podolski and some other guys who don't play for Arsenal so they're barely worth mentioning. Germany should beat us. Germany probably will beat us. But wait! We play them last. If Germany has already beaten Portugal and Ghana and secured their 1st place berth they may give their players a rest (and give us hope in the process). Needed result: Win if we lost to Portugal (gulp). Tie if we tied with Portugal (still gulp).
What's next? Two wins, or a win plus two ties, should get us through the group. If we place 1st (we won't), we probably play a not-very-good Russia. If we play second (we hope!), we probably play a very good Belgium. And, frankly, probably lose. But you never know! Miracles abound in the World Cup!
As for the other countries not in our group? Brazil will probably win the thing. It's in their country and their country lives and breathes soccer. If not them, then Germany or maybe
Spain the Netherlands* or Argentina. The other top teams, IMO, are Colombia, France, Belgium, and Uruguay (if their racist vampire is healthy). Chile may also surprise. Netherlands Spain* and Italy will probably disappoint and while I hope England does well they seem to be doomed to eternal failure. Oh, and sorry messjunk, but your Socceroos will probably be Soccerwon'ts.
* Fixed :)