Friday, December 6, 2013

Matchups, not names

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


owen said...

Unbelievable group i had a feeling the us would draw either ghana or germany it just sounded right. I do believe jurgens side is better suited against ghan this time around our cm position is much improved dempsey if he regains form is better and we keep the ball a whole lot better. I do not beleive we are going to be able to high press as much espe ially against portugal and germany tho.

Miles Kint said...

Portugal can be beaten. I watched all of their games at Euro 2012 because I'm part Portuguese. Ronaldo is great. Their midfield and defense are tough. Altidore will have a difficult time against Pepe and Alves. However, Portugal really aren't that great in the attack outside of Ronaldo. Moutinho is not a goal scorer. Neither are Veloso and Meireles. Nani is invisible at the internationa level. And far and away Portugal's biggest weakness is the lack of a top striker. They've got nothing there. Helder Postiga and Hugo Almeida are both far worse than Altidore. So if you can somehow bottle up Ronaldo you can beat this team.

I also think we have a real chance against Ghana. Yes they are hyper athletic, but we can outplay them on our day.

UnitedDemon said...

It is a good thing we play Ghana first. They will probably be the most tiring, and it's a game we need points out of.

From what I understand, Ghana's backline is the area of weakness. If we can test their defense and their keeper persistently, it seems we should get results. The problem is getting through the veritable Amazon rainforest that is their midfield, which is probably one of the most physically imposing, experienced, and savvy at the World Cup. Then they have forwards who are just athletic freaks. And they've got even faster players on the bench.The key will be to get our wingers or Jozy in good positions higher up the field.

Portugal do rely on Ronaldo for their offense. Their defense is pretty stodgy.

Germany is Germany.

So basically, overcome the Ghana curse, and pray Ronaldo isn't unstoppable against us.

andrés said...

I'm very curious what the press from our other group G nations are saying, particularly about us. I'm certain that we are the weakest in their eyes and will throw around the quote - "We will not underestimate them" but beyond that, I'm very curious.

Matt said...

Bedoya game winner against Marseille today...

Alex said...

Negative much? Bring it.

futfan said...

The travel distance is what's really ridiculous.

doorworker said...

What Alex said.

The heartbreak is in NOT being in any group in Brazil. Not in facing the best of the best...which is ultimately the point here, right?

Jacob Klinger said...

Yeah, it'll be exciting, but it couldn't have been made much more difficult.