CARSON, Calif. – Clint Mathis knows a little something about playing – and excelling – at the World Cup and after watching the U.S. National Team’s draw for the 2014 edition in Brazil, he believes the Americans can advance from their “Group of Death.”
Mathis, who appeared in two games during the U.S. National Team’s run to the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup, which included a stunning goal against South Korea helping the Americans to a 1-1 draw. During that tournament, the Americans faced two of their opponents for 2014 as they defeated Portugal 3-2—with Mathis watching from the bench—in their group stage opener while falling 1-0 to eventual tournament runner-up Germany in the quarterfinals.
Mathis’ thoughts on the U.S. National Team’s World Cup draw for Brazil is below…
MATHIS: “Obviously, we’ve definitely seen quite a few of these teams in the last few World Cups. Obviously, Germany is going to be a favorite, but I think in the past, the U.S. has done well against those guys. The one particular team that they haven’t been too successful with is Ghana, but being knocked out of the last two World Cups by the same team, maybe the third time is the charm for the U.S. It’s going to be the first game so I think that a lot will be on the line, but if the U.S. can get a result in that first game that would definitely change the whole outcome of the group. Then there’s Portugal, who we were successful against in 2002 in the first group stage game. It’s two different teams though and Portugal is not a team that you can sit back on. It’s in my opinion, the toughest group if not the toughest then it is the second toughest. If you’re playing in a World Cup, it’s never easy so I don’t think there’s not too much to worry about because every game is going to be tough no matter what group you’re in. The good thing is if the U.S. gets out of this group stages, I think it should be easier when normally it gets harder.”
(On what is running through the players’ minds about facing Ghana once again…)
MATHIS: “I think there’s a lot of excitement. If you look at guys like Landon or other guys who have been put out by the same team, I think there’s a lot of excitement on the revenge side. They’re saying ‘hey, we’ve got them in a group stage not a knockout stage’ so I think there’s some excitement to get some revenge because you can say ‘hey, you know what. Everyone is already going to count us out, we’re the underdogs’ and I think that’s not a bad mindset to go into this World Cup like we’ve got nothing to lose because no one is thinking that the U.S. can get out of his group right now.”
(On whether the U.S. group stage is similar to what he faced during the 2002 World Cup…)
MATHIS: “I think so. Everyone thought that the U.S. had no chance to get out of our group and we did well. I think there is something to say because these other teams are going to be fighting too. Portugal is sitting saying ‘why am I in this group?’ Ghana is saying the same thing and Germany is going ‘are you kidding me?’ Anything can happen in these games and no one is going to want to play against the U.S. per say because of the athleticism and the results that they could turn out. I think that it is going to be a tough group and I don’t think that any of the teams are too excited to be in this group.”
It couldn’t have gotten much harder for the U.S. National Team at the FIFA World Cup Draw as they were drawn into a “Group of Death” in Group G against Germany, Ghana and Portugal. However, at a closer glance, the draw is not a mission impossible for Jurgen Klinsmann’s group.
The U.S. opens the World Cup in Brazil on June 16 against Ghana at the Arena das Dunas in Natal. The match is undoubtedly the most important one for the U.S. as they must get past the team that eliminated them from the past two World Cups in order to have a reasonable chance to advance from the group. As the U.S. are well-aware, the Black Stars are a major challenge as they have a mix of physicality and technical skill that should give the Americans a major test. That being said, if the U.S. midfield can control the game and the Americans can capitalize on their opportunities, they may get past the African side.
In their second game, the U.S. will face Portugal in the Amazonian outpost of Manaus on June 22. Not only must the Americans best a side that boasts one of the world’s finest players in Cristiano Ronaldo, they must deal with the crippling heat and humidity of the Amazon. In June, the average temperatures in Manaus are typically in the high-80’s with more than 80 percent humidity, which promises to be a muggy game that could favor an American squad that should be better acclimated to the conditions due to a potentially high presence of North American-based players. However sticking to strictly on the field matters, Portugal may seemlike a stiff test, but the nation struggled during UEFA World Cup qualifying as they finished second in their group to Russia—with two draws against Israel as well as a draw against Northern Ireland—before defeating Sweden in a playoff to advance to Brazil.
Lastly, The U.S, have traditional powerhouse Germany in the final game on June 26 in Recife is the Americans’ best case scenario as they should face a German team that may already have a ticket into the second round. Against a German team that could be loaded with reserves, the U.S. should be able to stay competitive against a side that promises to be organized and immensely talented.
What will make their draw even more difficult is the immense travel that they must undertake for all three matches. With three games in Natal, Manus and Recife, the U.S. could travel nearly 9,000 miles round trip during their Group G campaign. The one benefit for the Americans however is that their MLS players should be accustomed to immense travel as well as heat and humidity, however, the benefit of charter flights should cut down on the exhaustion.
My prediction for a best case—and relatively realistic— scenario for the U.S. is a simple one: a victory against Ghana coupled with a Germany win over Portugal during the first match day. In the second match day, the U.S. must earn a draw—or a close win—against Portugal with a Germany victory over Ghana in the second day setting up a draw or close loss to an already qualified Germany in the final match day. If the Americans can find a way to earn points in their first two games, at the very least, they should negate the impact of Portugal's final match against Ghana.
What are your thoughts? Remember, the U.S. open up the year at StubHub Center against South Korea on Feb. 1.
Share them below.
Immediately following the World Cup draw, I spoke with LA Galaxy head coach -- and former U.S. National team boss -- Bruce Arena on his thoughts on the U.S.' draw for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The U.S. was drawn into Group G against Ghana, Portugal and Germany. Remember, the U.S. will open up the year at StubHub Center against South Korea on Feb. 1.
Check out Arena's thoughts below.
The U.S. National Team received an extremely difficult draw for the 2014 World Cup as they were placed in Group G alongside Germany, Ghana and Portugal.
The U.S. will open the tournament on June 16 in Arena das Dunas against Brazil before facing Portugal in the Amazon city of Manaus on June 22. They'll complete the group stage in Recife against Germany on June 26.
LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena a former national team boss, U.S. defender Omar Gonzalez and former U.S. international Clint Mathis each provided an instant analysis of the draw on Instagram.
Check it out below.
It's been Omar Gonzalez day on LAGalaxy.com with loads of Gonzalez content and up next,Gonzalez discussed the U.S. National Team, dual citizenship, saxophones, football, beer chugging, and more on ESPN's Highly Questionable.
Check it out below...
Omar Gonzalez had a successful 2013 at the club and international level, but 2014 could be something even more substantial.
I look back at Gonzalez’s 2013 season in my latest LA Galaxy Insider Year in Review piece. Gonzalez was undoubtedly successful as he earned the club’s Defender of the Year award, was a finalist for MLS Defender of the Year and an MLS Best XI selection while also locking down a regular place on the U.S. National Team.
The Galaxy center back is expected to contend for a roster spot –and a place in the starting XI—on the U.S. National Team’s roster at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and while Gonzalez is staying “even keeled” ahead of a big year, he’s hopeful that he’ll be on the plane to South America.
“There’s no really Cinderella story so I feel like every team in the World Cup is a great team and deserves to be there. Whoever we’re matched up against is going to be a tough group,” Gonzalez told reporters in a conference call a week ago. “I've never been to a World Cup, but I’m sure that I’ll be getting at Robbie to ask him questions about how it is. It’s going to be a fun year and hopefully, I can keep my form, stay healthy, and hopefully I’ll be there.”
Will Gonzalez be at the World Cup in 2014?
Tuesday Notes: Club Tijuana appoint new manager; Donovan finishes third for Futbol de Primera 2013 Player of the Year
The LA Galaxy’s CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal opponents Club Tijuana will have a new coach when they take on LA in the CCL in March.
Club Tijuana appointed Venezuelan Cesar Farias to replace Jorge Almiron who led the Xolos to a 10th place finish in the 2013 Apertura season. Farias led Venezuela to the Copa America semifinals in 2011 after helping the nation reach the Under-20 World Cup in 2009. Farias will begin his career with Club Tijuana on Dec. 28 with a friendly against Club America at StubHub Center.
In other news around the soccer world:
*LA Galaxy forward Landon Donovan finished in third for the Futbol de Primera Player of the Year Award which was given to U.S. teammate Jozy Altidore. Michael Bradley – who was my selection for the award – finished second.
*Altidore was on hand as adidas unveiled the 2014 FIFA World Cup match ball the Brazuca. Check out the ball below and in case you're wondering, brazuca is a Brazilian term to describe the nation's way of life.
— Michael Ehrlich (@adidasUSPRGuy) December 3, 2013
FIFA announced the 2014 World Cup pots on Tuesday, and the U.S. National Team will be guaranteed some stiff competition during next year’s tournament in Brazil.
The U.S. was placed in Pot 3 with the other CONCACAF nations and four squads from the Asian Football Confederation. As expected, European heavyweights Germany and Spain were placed in Group A alongside host Brazil and Argentina. Group 2 boasts five African representatives as well as Chile and Ecuador while Group 4 includes England, France, Italy, Netherlands, and Portugal among others.
The 2014 World Cup pots are below:
POT 1: Argentina, Brazil, Belgium, Colombia, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Uruguay
POT 2: Algeria, Cameroon, Chile, Ivory Coast, Ecuador, Ghana, Nigeria
POT 3: USA, Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, Korea Republic, Japan, Australia, Iran
POT 4: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, England, France, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia
Thoughts on the World Cup pots?
The U.S. National Team is returning to Southern California.
U.S. Soccer announced on Monday that the U.S. will face Korea Republic on Feb. 1 at StubHub Center concluding their annual winter training camp. The match will be the first game for the U.S. in a busy 2014 that will see them -- and Korea Republic -- complete in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
“As a team that has qualified for Brazil, the Korea Republic will be another great benchmark for us,” said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann in a statement. “They bring a different style of play than we have seen in the last two years, and that gives us a chance to grow. With only two or three games left before May, this will be an important opportunity for the players who will be finishing off the January camp. The message will be the same one we start with every time we get together: we are here to win.”
Both LA Galaxy stalwarts Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez are likely to be called up for the January training camp. According to Steve Davis at ProSoccerTalk, the U.S. will open up training camp on Jan. 6 at StubHub Center before departing for Brazil on Jan. 12 where they will train in Sao Paulo at their base for the World Cup until Jan. 25 before returning to Southern California.
The match will be first game between the two countries since their 1-1 draw at the 2002 FIFA World Cup when former Galaxy attacker Clint Mathis scored a stunning goal in the tie.
Check it out below.