It's not the names of the countries or the players that fill their team sheets that makes this a horrendous World Cup Draw for the United States. It's the styles of play.
Every group stage opponent - in order, Ghana, Portugal, Germany - can match the U.S. for athleticism. Ghana is the only team the U.S. can claim to have a technical advantage against and that's probably a wash.
Never mind that Ghana eliminated the U.S. from the past two World Cups. This American side faces a group with zero teams it can claim to be cleanly better than.
For all the very real talk surrounding Portugal's dependence on Cristiano Ronaldo, none of it changes the fact that the Portugese are an explosive team full of pace and on-ball ability, neither of which the U.S. can fully match.
Germany's name is synonymous with its style to some extent. Yes, this is a more robust Germany, but it's also one that will just as gladly bruise its way through midfield battles on its way to dissecting the world's more composed defenses with a plethora of - again - quick, technical attackers.
That recurring theme is what makes this group so nightmarish. The way these teams play is the way the U.S. struggles. Though the team is better now, Jurgen Klinsmann's squad isn't ready to outpass this level of World Cup opponent. On its day, the U.S. national team might outwork one of these sides, but every one one of them holds the upper hand with the ball at their collective feet.
Teams like Spain, Italy and Argentina do too, but they can be pushed around. They at least let other teams have the ball a little. Portugal comes closest to that. By and large though, that kind of breathing room doesn't exist in Group G.
There's no doubt that the second group game in Manaus is especially critical. The formula for American advancement is simple: beat Ghana, get something from Portugal and hope Germany has already plowed through both teams by the time the sides meet in Recife on June 26.
It is doable. But the heavy breathing that American fans began when the U.S. was drawn alongside Germany and Ghana will continue for the next seven months.
For those who know best, though, it's won't be because of the histories or reputations of any of the three opponents. Just how they play the game - with a combined level of power and finesse the U.S. still hasn't consistently matched.
- Jacob Klinger