There was gloomy news from the U.S. men’s national soccer team at Costa do Sauipe in Bahia, Brazil, the site of the 2014 World Cup Draw on Friday.
The U.S. was drawn into Group G, which also includes Germany, the odds-makers’ second or third favorite, Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portugal and Ghana. The Black Stars have eliminated the U.S. in the last two World Cups.
Can someone say Group of Death? Or at least doom.
The U.S. opens their 2014 World Cup quest in Brazil against their previous conquerors, Ghana, on June 16, and Portugal on June 22 in Manuas, the Amazonian venue that most sides wanted to avoid because of its heat and humidity. Sam's Army closes the group stage versus Germany on June 26.
Relative to TV -- English-language rights are held by ESPN/ABC, while Univision Communications controls the Spanish-language telecasts -- the schedule for the U.S. is somewhat favorable. The first match against Ghana is slated for a Monday at 6 p.m. (ET) in Natal. The contest against the high-profile Ronaldo squad will air at 3 p.m. on Sunday, which will air on ABC, from Manaus. The German encounter will come on Thursday at noon from Recife.
As for the rest of the field, the host nation is joined by Cameroon, Croatia and Mexico in Group A. Group D, pitting Uruguay, Italy, England and Costa Rica, is considered to be the hardest unit, according to ESPN's Soccer Power Index, ahead of Group G. Group B is also a very tough group, comprisong defending champion Spain, 2010 runner-up The Netherlands, which will meet in the opener here, Chile and Australia.
The other quartets are considered to be less taxing: Group C: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan; Group E: Switzerland, Ecuador, France and Honduras; Group F: Leo Messi-led Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria; and Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia and
U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann, who coached Germany in the 2006 World Cup and thrice played for his homeland in the famed FIFA tourney, winning it in 1990, said the Americans certainly have their work cut out for them.
''It couldn't get any more difficult or any bigger,'' he said in an interview with ESPN's Jeremy Schaap at the draw in Costa do Sauipe. ''It's a real challenge. And we'll take it. We'll take it on, and hopefully we're going to surprise some people there.''
Klinsmann, though, wouldn't bill the U.S. as "underdogs." He added that "if one day we want to be in the top 10, top 12 of the world, we have to beat them."
As to Manaus, Klinsmann said that in his talks with other managers, everybody said they wanted to avoid the venue. "Well, we got Manaus. There's no excuses. We're going to deal with it."
Jed Drake, senior vice president and executive producer at ESPN, and his team will evidently have to deal with it as well. As was the case in 2010, ESPN plans to provide on-site, pre- and post-match coverage from the venues hosting the U.S. matches. Drake said the programmer will have talent either inside or outside the stadiums, with plenty of reporters on-site.
In the case of Manaus, that means getting personnel and equipment to a remote location.
During an interview earlier this week, Drake called it “the luck or unluck of the draw,” as he had hoped the U.S. team wouldn't have to visit Arena Amazonia, located deep in the rainforest. “It’s very, very dense terrain. We will literally have to float mobile units up the Amazon River,” he said.