The USA has one of the toughest draws in this yearâ€™s World Cup: they are grouped with Germany and Portugal, ranked second and third in FIFA world ranking and a Ghana team that has had the run over JÃ¼rgen Klinsmannâ€™s side in recent times.
Doomsayers beware though; the Americans have managed to pull off victories against both Germany and Portugal in their previous meetings. In June last year, the US team mustered a 4-3 victory over the Germans on home soil, the last time they faced Portugal was in the 2002 World Cup, when they upset the opposition 3-2.
While both victories provide a glimmer of hope for fans of the Stars and Stripes, they donâ€™t offer much comfort when it comes to facing the team that has eliminated them from the previous two World Cups â€“ Ghana. In 2010, Asamoah Gyanâ€™s early goal in extra-time stole any American dream after the side had made it through the group stages. In 2006, another 1-2 defeat meant Ghana prevented them from making it through group stages at all.
The US has had a record-setting qualifying run for Brazil. They finished with 16 wins and a 0.761 win percentage, both team records. The team also notched up a fantastic goal difference (+28), and kept 11 of their opponents from finding the back of the net. According to the experts at Betfair, the US has the highest odds to qualify. Those same experts also list the US as an underdog in every one of their matches in group play.
Three Key Players
Landon Donovan,Â L.A. Galaxy
The Yanks will need their all-time leader in scoring and assists to assert himself offensively if they want to have a chance to make it out of the group stages. Donovan has had an impressive 2013 campaign with the national team, scoring eight goals and producing a team-high eight assists. Itâ€™ll be interesting to see if Klinsmann utilizes Donovan as a starter or as a reserve, as he did in the match against rival Mexico.
The US will certainly be looking for a top performance from Donovan: at 32 this could be his last World Cup.
Jozy Altidore,Â Sunderland
In 2013 Altidore and Donovan were their countryâ€™s joint-top goal scorers, both finding the net eight times. But the strikerâ€™s had a lacklustre season with Sunderland where heâ€™s only scored twice. Before signing for the Black Cats, Altidore spent two seasons with Dutch team AZ Alkmaar, during which he proved himself a capable striker, scoring 51 goals. Itâ€™ll be interesting to see which Altidore will show up in Brazil, if he plays like has with the national team and AZ, then they should be able to make a run at qualifying.
Tim Howard,Â Everton
Howard has been the primary goalkeeper for the US since the 2010 World Cup. The Premier League record holder for the most consecutive appearances (184) is expected to provide the same level of play that heâ€™s produced for Everton. Currently, Howard is ranked as the fourth best goalkeeper in the EA Sports Player Performance Index: heâ€™s made 110 saves and kept 14 clean sheets for Everton. Much like Donovan, this yearâ€™s World Cup will likely be the 35-year-oldâ€™s last.
USA World Cup fixtures:
16th June â€“Â Ghana
22nd June â€“Â Portugal
26th June â€“Â Germany
Where do you think USA will finish at this yearâ€™s tournament?Â