The US Men’s National Team was undefeated in its send-off series against Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Nigeria. The team has found its identity and developed a defensive-minded playing style that allows for quick counters and fast moving attacks in transition. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann angered many fans with his assertion that the US “can’t win the World Cup this year”, but I would advise taking his comments with a grain of salt. Klinsmann is undeniably German, and his demeanor is that of the stereotypical German, calculating and methodical. By propagating the notion that America is the underdog, he is playing right into our sensibilities as American sports fans, and he is riling up a fan base in preparation for the biggest sporting event in the world.
The US start their World Cup campaign against arch nemesis and two-time spoiler, Ghana. The match will take place on Monday the 16th at 5PM and will be broadcast on ESPN. This match will be followed Sunday the 22nd as the US take on Portugal (also broadcast on ESPN at 5PM), and the US will finish up Group play against Germany on June 26th at Noon on ESPN. The US beat Nigeria 2-1 in the final send off match, and that Nigerian team beat out Ghana for the African Cup of Nations. Klinsmann (and the players) have iterated many times that the Ghana match is the most important and statistics bear that out. Sports Illustrated broke it down and here is what they came up with.
Since the ’98 World Cup (the first World Cup with 32 teams competing):
- Only 4 of the 46 teams that lost their first match in the World Cup, went on to get out of their group. That comes out to 9%.
- Look at that in contrast to a team that gets a draw. A team getting a draw in the first match of the World Cup has gotten out of the group 56% of the time (20 out of 36).
- A win in the first match of the World Cup, statistically, is a HUGE boost to the hopes of reaching the knockout round. With 40 of the 46 teams that won their first World Cup match advancing to the round of 16, that puts the percentage at 87%.
The Group of Death could not be set up any better for the US to escape and fight on into the knockout round. The team that we have the most animosity for, is the team we take on first. WHEN we get a win against Ghana, we’ll be in the driver seat. Portugal won’t likely beat Germany, so they’ll be reeling in the second match against the US. If they somehow upset Germany, they’ll likely be flying high, and they’ll be ripe for an upset at the hands of the Red, White, and Blue. Taking on Germany in the final group stage match will be the toughest test of our players and strategy, but if anyone can unlock the Germans, it is OUR German. He laid the foundation for the team they enjoy today, and he knows how to pick them apart.
This is a time that comes along only once every four years, and it’s the time when being a soccer fan isn’t all that strange. It’s time to get behind the US. It’s time to cheer for the country we love so much. This is OUR time. This is our NEW American Dream. This summer, we are all American Outlaws.