COSTA DO SAUÍPE, Brazil — Three quick thoughts on the World Cup draw:
• The U.S. got about the worst draw imaginable. The U.S. drew three-time world champion Germany, nemesis Ghana (which has eliminated the U.S. in the last two World Cups) and Portugal (featuring superstar Cristiano Ronaldo) in the Americans’ opening-round group for next year’s World Cup. Making things worse, the U.S. drew the most difficult travel distance possible: a whopping 8,866 miles round-trip with games in Natal, Manaus and Recife. The one thing U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann told me was that he didn’t want to play in the Amazonian outpost of Manaus—and now that’s exactly what will happen. Easily the toughest U.S. World Cup draw ever.
• We knew the draw would throw up harder and easier groups, and that happened. The three toughest groups are Group G (USA, Germany, Portugal, Ghana), Group B (Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia) and Group D (Uruguay, England, Italy, Costa Rica). The easiest? Try Group E (Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras), Group A (Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon) and Group H (Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea).
• The knockout round matchups are important too. If the top seeds win their groups, one side of bracket would be Brazil, Colombia, Switzerland and Germany, while the other side would be Spain, Uruguay, Argentina and Belgium. If the U.S. were to advance to the Round of 16 from its difficult group, the Americans would face an opponent from Group H (Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea). If there’s one silver lining from today, that might be it (but barely).