The United States have one final send-off match before they head to Brazil and look to conquer the “Group of Death”. Three familiar foes await the Red, White, and Blue in Ghana, Portugal, and Germany.
As if the teams the US are facing won’t be challenging enough, they will also have to endure extreme heat and travel lengths of about 8,000 miles for their three group stage fixtures.
It all begins with Ghana on June 16. I don’t believe there’s a rivalry between these two sides, but the United States will certainly seek vengeance, as the Black Stars have knocked the US out of the past two World Cups. There will be plenty of familiar faces for American fans and players to see on display when these teams encounter one another. Forward Asamoah Gyan and midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng are just a few of the Ghanian stars looking to drive their squad deep into this month’s tournament.
Ghana have been considered the Brazil of Africa and won’t change the way the play against the United States. They hold the ball for long periods of time with their strong midfield and look to get to the ball to their point man Gyan. Everything they do will ultimately go through the 28 year old star who has had plenty of success against the US. He was the one to send the US packing in extra time back in 2010.
Ghana will give the United States fits in the attacking third and will probably dominate possession, therefore it will be vital for the US to take advantage of their opportunities. There will be chances for Dempsey and Co, as Ghana have an inexperienced back line and goalkeeper. I believe the United States will draw 1-1 against Ghana, making it vital to get a victory against Portugal or Germany.
Up next for the Red White and Blue are Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portugese side. With a veteran squad, Portugal are a team that will feature many of the same players from 2010’s World Cup. Anyone watching this European nation know that everything they do revolves around Ronaldo. Just ask Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sweden.
Defenders Pepe and Fábio Coentrão will stabilize the Portugese defense and are certainly worthy of their places, as both are coming off of a Champions League title with their club team Real Madrid.
Ronaldo was battling a thigh injury going into last month’s Champions League final but Portugal’s FA has declared that he has knee tendinosis. This injury could damper the hopes of Portugal. He is essentially a one man show to begin with offensively and if the United States find someone capable of man-marking him or just containing him in a zone style defense, then it will be the US who have the upper hand. I see the United States getting 3 points against Portugal in a 3-1 victory.
By the final day of the Group G play, it will very likely be close in the table. I anticipate Germany gaining maximum points against Portugal and Ghana, which would most likely put the Germans through to the knockout stage, regardless of their result with the US.
This doesn’t mean I believe that they will take it easy on the Americans. Germany’s manager Joachim Lõw knows how important it is to carry momentum throughout the tournament and although it may be wise to rest players, that won’t stop the Germans from coming at the US with everything they’ve got.
A year ago the United States were able to hold on to a 4-3 win in Washington D.C. against this German team. It wasn’t the same squad though. What I saw in the nation’s capital was a “B” or maybe even “C” team from Germany. Germany are a traditional powerhouse in football and they didn’t display goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, right back Phillip Lahm, or the countless world class talents in the midfield and forward roles that include Bayern Munich’s Thomas Mueller and Mario Götze in last summer’s match.
This squad has too much depth and talent for the US. It will be very difficult for the United States to contain all the threats they are faced with on Brazil’s Recife pitch. Ultimately, I believe the United States will fall to Germany 2-0, but still have a very realistic chance of getting out of this group if they can manage four points.