If you put any trust in the FIFA world rankings, if you invest any confidence in their worth—and apparently FIFA itself isn’t all that wrapped up in them—then the draw the United States received Friday for the 2014 World Cup is Group of Statistical Death.
Do the math. Check the world rankings and add ‘em up. The United States being drawn into Group G along with Germany, Ghana and Portugal is at least 27 percent more difficult than any of the other seven groups in which the Americans might have landed.
Here’s how we arrive at this conclusion:
According to the rankings updated Nov. 28, Germany is FIFA’s No. 2 team. Portugal is No. 5. The U.S. is No. 14 and Ghana is 24th. Add up the rankings of the four teams, and you get a combined ranking of 45.
None of the other groups has a collective ranking of less than 57. That group is D, with No. 6 Uruguay, No. 7 Italy, No. 13 England and No. 31 Costa Rica.
The easiest group by that method is Group H, led by No. 11 Belgium, joined by No. 22 Russia, No. 26 Algeria and No. 54 South Korea.
The U.S. will play its opening game June 16 in Natal, Brazil against Ghana, which knocked the Americans out of the past two World Cups—with a group-ending loss for the U.S. in 2006, then in the round of 16 in 2010. Portugal follows June 22 in Manaus and close with Germany in Recife.
The shame of the draw for the U.S. is that its efforts to improve and achieve over the past four years go largely unrewarded. Defeating No. 7 Italy on its home turf and a weakened German side in Washington D.C., as well as winning the CONCACAF qualifying group lead the Americans to dramatically more difficult games in Brazil than Honduras or Costa Rica.
“That’s what a World Cup is about. It’s a real challenge,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said on ESPN. “And we’ll take it. We’ll take it on. Hopefully we’re going to surprise some people there.
“If you want to get one day into the top 10 in the world, you’ve got to start beating them.”
The U.S. certainly will get its chances in Brazil.
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