World Cup 2014 Draw Is Set: U.S. Will Face Germany, Portugal, Ghana

The final draw of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil was announced Friday. The U.S. team will face Germany, Portugal, and Ghana in Group G; host Brazil will face world No. 16 Croatia in Group A. Only the top two teams of each group advance to the next round.

The draw puts the U.S., currently ranked as the world’s No. 14 team, in the same group with the world’s No. 2 (Germany) and No. 5 (Portugal). Ghana is ranked 24th.

The draw determines the makeup of eight groups of four teams that will play each other in the first round. Every World Cup usually has a “group of death” — an especially competitive collection of teams that can bounce a highly regarded team in the first round.

An argument could be made that the U.S. is in that group this time around. But another group that looks to be especially tough is Group D, featuring three previous champions — Italy (currently No. 7), Uruguay (No. 6), and England (No. 13) — along with Costa Rica (No. 31).

The U.S. team will play its first match against Ghana on Monday, June 16, in Natal. They then travel to Manaus to face Portugal. The Manaus location has been a point of contention for some coaches, who have said they don’t want their teams playing in the heart of the Amazon.

You can see the draw at the website for FIFA, soccer’s international governing body.

Brazilian soccer legend Pele, who took part in the ceremony, said that he likes the home team’s chances.

“I think we will be in the final,” he said.

The draw was announced Friday to a packed auditorium in Bahia, Brazil. The tournament featuring 32 national teams is set to begin next June.

Entering today’s draw, the top-seeded teams for the tournament were Brazil along with (in alphabetical order) Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, Germany, Spain, Switzerland and Uruguay — reflecting the host country and the top teams in the world rankings as of October, FIFA says.

The splashy and highly produced ceremony unveiling the tournament’s bracket began with a tribute to the late Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday at age 95. Later, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff also announced a moment of silence for the well-loved leader and activist.

Every four years, soccer fans around the world eagerly await the World Cup draw, dreading a potentially perilous early match-up that could also bring an early exit from the tournament. In previous years, the drama and importance of the draw have led some to suspect conspiracies at work within FIFA, soccer’s governing body.

“Not since “Forrest Gump” have table tennis balls supposedly been so vulnerable to manipulation and sleight of hand,” The New York Times reported in 2009, referring to the ping-pong balls that are pulled from a pot to determine the matchups. This year, talk of French machinations and a mysterious “Pot X” have fed suspicions in England, as the BBC reports.

And for anyone doubting the scale of the spectacle of today’s announcement, consider that the draw ceremony has a budget that tops $16 million, as the BBC tells us.

This will be the 20th time the World Cup is contested. Brazilian officials have been working to get 12 stadiums ready for the tournament’s start in June.

That effort faced a setback this week, when it was announced that Corinthians Arena, the scene of a crane collapse that killed two people, would not be ready in time to meet the formal deadline of the start of 2014 and won’t be ready until April.

As we reported after the November collapse, that stadium is slated to host the World Cup opener.

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