Saturday, December 10, 2005

tough world cup group for US soccer

Not the easiest draw for the US for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Same group as Italy, the Czech Republic (rated #2 by FIFA,right behind Brazil), and Ghana, which will appear in its first World Cup but has wone the African championship several times.

On the other hand, the 2002 draw also looked tough: the US was matched against host South Korea; Portugal, which was a trendy pick to win the entire World Cup; and Poland, a usually solid team. But they shocked Portugal with three early goals and withstood furious South Korean attacks in front of a raucous home crow to get thru to the second round, where they spanked Mexico soundly and outplayed Germany despite losing 1-0.

It's not impossible -- the US team can get through. Italy has had occasional embarrassing first-round lapses before, perhaps most famously in 1966, when they were bounced out by North Korea, and as always have the crush of high expectations. The Czechs are tough but can be beat -- they didn't even qualify for the 2002 Cup. And Ghana is an interesting side, but in their first World Cup. The US can get a win and a draw, which would probably be enough to get them into the second round.

But it won't be easy! I admit, I'd hoped for the US to be grouped with serial World Cup chokers Spain, Angola, and Ukraine. But I guarantee the Czechs won't beat the US 5-1 like they did in 1990.