I sat at my desk Friday eagerly awaiting the results of the draw for the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team. After our disappointing result against Ghana in 2010 and a coaching change, we had struggled to get back on course.
Earlier this year, however, our squad really turned it on and put together the best winning streak in the history of the team. For 12 games, we played magically and forced our way into the top spot of our qualifying group. I had rarely felt so good about the men's team, to be honest.
|Photo by: Kristina Puga|
As the groups were run off and our name still hadn't been drawn out of the pot by Group D, I started to worry. There's no way we're getting put in that group, I thought. But sure enough, we drew Group G.
This is what some commentators around the world are now calling the "Group of Death." FIFA world power Germany was the first team to be selected, followed by the Ghanaian team that had crushed the U.S.'s hopes not just in 2010, but in 2006 as well.
I immediately started rationalizing. Ghana has been off lately; they're not the same team. We should be able to counter anything they throw at us and contain their scoring. We still have a very good shot at finishing second in the group. Expecting a result here isn't out of the question at all.
Then the final team of the group was selected; Portugal. A team that arguably has the best player on the planet right now, Cristiano Ronaldo. It was done. Our World Cup was over before it ever even got started. It ended the moment we were drawn into Group G, the "Group of Death."
I felt something akin to anger come over me. I certainly didn't want to work anymore. I was planning on taking vacation days to watch the matches in which we were involved. I was really stoked about our chances. We were on fire coming into the World Cup and a good draw would easily see us into the round of 16 and maybe further. I wasn't expecting to win it all by any stretch, but to be competitive, have some good games, and possibly reach the quarters.
There was nothing now. Why care?
I've calmed down since, but still, it's going to be extremely disappointing if after doing so well in the run up to the tourney, we crap out in groups. In my heart, I still think there's a chance that we can move on, though. It'll require great effort, but it's not out of the question.
As I mentioned earlier, Ghana really isn't the squad they have been in recent World Cups, and in the previous matches, I believe the Americans went in expecting good results and that hampered their effort on the pitch. Portugal can counter against anyone and Ronaldo can score from virtually anywhere, but they have taken a few steps back from form also.
At best we're the third-strongest team in the group, but with a good result against Ghana in our first match, we can take a big step towards moving forward in the tournament. If we can cement at least a draw from Portugal, I think we will have a good chance to advance.
So here's to looking forward to a great World Cup. Hell, if we can manage to make it past groups, we might win the entire thing.