There’s no doubt about it. The US national team landed cleats first into the Group of Death on Friday.
Group G – which features top-seeded Germany, Portugal, Ghana and the US – lead MLSsoccer.com’s list as the toughest group in the World Cup next summer in Brazil. Here’s a closer look from MLSsoccer.com Editor-in-Chief Greg Lalas and Armchair Analyst Matthew Doyle.
1. GROUP G
No question that Germany is a bona fide contender (and a favorite, in some analysts’ eyes) to win the entire thing, and there’s some serious danger laying in wait with Portugal and Ghana. The USMNT are no underdogs here if you ask head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, but they certainly have their work cut out for them to advance.
Average FIFA Ranking: 11.25
Lalas says : “How do you say 'death' in Portuguese?”
The Analyst says: “I feel like you could look that up on Google, Greg."
2. GROUP B
The top two teams from South Africa will face off in the first game of the group? Doesn’t get much better than Spain vs. Netherlands, but Chile is a worthy challenger from South America. Australia is the wild card here and the weakest team in the mix.
Average FIFA Ranking: 21
The Analyst says: “I wouldn’t be surprised if Chile made a run to the semis, or if the Dutch players stopped speaking to one another by the second game.”
Lalas says: “I hate Spain.”
3. GROUP D
Costa Rica didn’t land in the Group of Death, but they didn’t miss by much. They’ve got a tough road against Uruguay, Italy and England the only group in the tournament with three former winners of the World Cup.
Average FIFA Ranking: 14.25
Lalas says: “Suarez vs. Balotelli is a battle between heavyweight crazy people. It’s must-watch.”
The Analyst says: “Uruguay, Italy and England have all spent 75 years trying to ruin the game.”
4. GROUP A
The hosts from Brazil should breeze out of this one, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy for the others. It’s a free-for-all between Croatia, Cameroon and Mexico, who landed on surprisingly firm ground despite an atrocious campaign in the Hex.
Average FIFA Ranking: 24.25
The Analyst says: “It all depends if we see the 2012 Mexico or 2013 Mexico. I’m not stupid enough to try and predict which one will show up.”
Lalas says: “Wonderfully set up for schadenfreude about El Tri.”
5. GROUP C
Colombia appear destined to advance in their first appearance since 1998, but it’s tough to solve who will go with them. Everyone is waiting for Japan to have a big breakout, but they certainly weren’t a top 16 team in the Confederations Cup last summer. An aging Ivory Coast team and enigmatic Greece round out the group.
Average FIFA Ranking: 20.25
The Analyst says: “Greece is impotent, Ivory Coast is old, and Japan got hammered by everyone - including Mexico – in the Confederations Cup.”
Lalas says: “Greece is impotent?!!”
6. GROUP H
Here’s the mixed bag of the entire tournament, led by a pseudo-contender in Belgium, but there’s not much more to fear. Russia have a tendency to fold on the big stage, South Korea are industrious but nothing impressive, and Algeria is the weakest team out of Africa.
Average FIFA Ranking: 28.25
The Analyst says: “Hey, remember when Algeria had a chance to advance on the last day of the 2010 group stage and chose to play for a draw? #SoBrave”
Lalas says: “Sure, I remember that.”
7. GROUP E
This was the group the US wanted, but Honduras had the luck. Headlined by easily the weakest top seed in Switzerland, it doesn’t get a whole lot deeper with Ecuador or France, who collapsed into a heap in South Africa. If Los Catrachos were ever going to advance into the knockout round, this is their chance.
Average FIFA Ranking: 22.75
The Analyst says: “The Shawnee-Mission High School junior varsity team would have advanced out of Switzerland’s qualifying group.”
Lalas says: “Everyone in this group is overrated.”
8. GROUP F
Argentina has this one in the bag. They’ll face a stiff breeze from Bosnia-Herzegovina and Nigeria, but Iran won’t make a sound.
Average FIFA Ranking: 24.25
Lalas: “Well, there’s nothing funny to say about this one.”
The Analyst says: “Serious business. This is the last Cup of Messi’s prime, and Argentina need to win it for him to be considered among the likes of Pelé and Maradona.”