It was a painful scene for supporters of the United States men’s National Soccer Team, as the final draw for the 2014 FIFA World Cup put the U.S. in one of the tournament’s hardest groups.
To advance to the knockout stage, the United States will have to finish in first or second place in Group G. Unfortunately for the States, Group G is one of the groups being labeled as the tournament’s “Group of Death,” the most challenging group in the tournament (other possible Groups of Death are Group B, which features defending World Cup champion Spain and runner-up Netherlands, and Group D, in which Italy and England reside).
The United States has a particularly heartbreaking history in World Cup games with Ghana. In 2006, the two countries played in a pivotal Group E matchup. Ghana would win 2-1, the second goal resulting from a controversial penalty. The win advanced Ghana into the knockout stage while ending the U.S. run in the tournament. In 2010, the squads would meet again; Ghana won 2-1 in overtime to advance to the quarterfinals, again knocking out the U.S.
The Germans, meanwhile, are three-time World Cup champions. When the country hosted the tournament in 2006, the team finished third. Four years later in South Africa, Germany would fall to eventual champion Spain in the semifinals but rebound to finish third again. Nine members of the team’s roster in a friendly match against England on November 19 were from Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund, the two clubs that played in 2013’s UEFA Champions League final.
While Group G has the Black Stars in Ghana and the Stars and Stripes in the United States, Portugal has the biggest star, Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo scored only four goals in 10 qualifying matchups, but when Portugal played a pair of games to break a tie with Sweden for qualification, he notched four more, including a hat trick in Sweden’s Solna Friends Arena.
All three teams present significant challenges for the United States. Germany is the No. 2 team according to FIFA, Portugal is three spots behind at No. 5 and Ghana is No. 24. The States sit at No. 14. The tournament begins on June 12, and Group G plays its first games on June 16.