US draw just what was needed

Discussion in 'USA Men: News & Analysis' started by Morpheus1271, Dec 13, 2005.

  1. Morpheus1271

    Morpheus1271 Member

    May 30, 2003
    Long Island, NY
    Like everyone else that seems to be posting or writing about the US draw for the world cup I too was a left with feelings of uncertainty and fear. Uncertainty that we may bow out after round 1 and fear that we would lose all the apparent momentum we've built since 2002. After all, we're in a group with Italy, historically one of the best defensive teams in all of soccer; Czech Republic who has been on a great run of form lately and ranked #2 (too high in my mind though); and Ghana who seem to finally be living up to potential.

    It has taken a few days for it to all settle in but I believe that I've gained some perspective on this situation and here's the bottom line:

    If we want, and expect, to be considered among the top-tier soccer teams in the world, then these are exactly the kind of situations we're going to increasingly find ourselves in and the same situations in which we need to act the part, our players AND us fans. If we expect them to go out with every confidence in the world, we must do the same. There is no reason to expect anything other than at least a 2nd place finish in Group E and a place in the semifinals. There is not one team in our group with whom we can't and won't compete with. Consider this...for whatever FIFA rankings are worth:

    - Ghana qualified out of a group where opponents AVG FIFA ranking is 88.4
    - Czech qualified out of a group where opponents AVG FIFA ranking is 67
    - Italy qualified out of a group where opponents AVG FIFA ranking is 65.8
    - USA qualified out of a group where opponents AVG FIFA ranking is 42.4

    And, both Ghana and Czech Republic had the luxury of playing against two teams each with a ranking BELOW 100 (Czech: Armenia 110, Andorra 127; Ghana: Uganda 109, Cape Verde 120)

    Now I know this doesn't tell the full story by any stretch but we all need to keep things in perspective here. To those writing us off I say great, let them, just as they did in 2002. Just as they will do always until we take advantage of the opportunity that was just given to us by drawing the US into arguable the 2nd most difficult draw of the tournament.

    Another quick stat: The average ranking of the other top 2 teams in each group E's qualifying bracket....

    - Ghana: 62
    - Italy: 49.5
    - Czech: 15
    - USA: 14

    The performance of our players is in the hands of Bruce Arena. I for one, can't think of anyone else who could meet this challenge than him and I fully expect that he will have them firing on all cylinders come June '06.

    The performance and attitude of the fans is up to each of us. Will we also be ready to go? Will we still be hoping and praying or expecting?

    Welcome to the world stage's our time!!!

    Go USA
  2. Jegao Paraiba

    Jegao Paraiba Member

    Aug 6, 2004
    Morgantown, WV
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Well done, Morpheus.
    I think we all have the same suspicions of the FIFA rankings, but they're out there and they're gonna get used.
    It's time for the Nat's to do their part to give them a little more credibility.
  3. blech

    blech Member+

    Jun 24, 2002
    I agree that we you have to beat the best to be the best, and that we cannot be afraid of any team.

    At the same time, you don't get any additional points for advancing from a difficult group, so I certainly wouldn't have minded an easier schedule, and the reality is that having a more competitive group has reduced our "odds" of advancing.

    So, now, we just have to beat those odds, and prove that we belong.

    ps - You can't just look at the numbers of the other teams' qualifying opponents without also taking into account the differences in the qualifying procedure. The concacaf system, which has the top 3 advance, is completely different from the African system where only the top team advances or the Euro system where only the top team and half of the second teams advance. Its apples to oranges.

    And, isn't the ranking of the absent competition somewhat irrelevant anyway. Brazil could go play three games against the 99th, 100th, and 101st teams, and would have then finished 1st in a group with an opponent ranking of 100. So what, they didn't have the strongest competition, but they finished first, and are still the #1 team in the world.

    Bottom line, if the conclusion is that the teams in Group E aren't that good, I think it's wrong. We got a tough draw, and it's just not going to be easy. What we needed? Probably not. But the end of the world? Definitely not.
  4. ACGreen

    ACGreen Member

    May 12, 2004
    São Paulo, Brasil
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    When you look at the average fifa ranking of the WC groups, Group E is the hardest group out there. Harder than Argentina, by about 20 points.

    Looking at Fifa rankings for the teams in each group, you are left with an approximation of difficulty for purposes of comparison. As the accompanying panel shows, Italy's group, not Argentina's, looks most like a Group of Death, with a 'difficulty factor' of 72 being by far the toughest.

    Group A: Germany 16, Costa Rica 21, Poland 23, Ecuador 37. Total 97

    Group B: England 9, Paraguay 30, Trinidad & Tobago 51, Sweden 14. Total 104

    Group C: Argentina 4, Ivory Coast 41, Serbia 47, Holland 3. Total 95

    Group D: Mexico 7, Iran 19, Angola 62, Portugal 10. Total 98

    Group E: Italy 12, Ghana 50 (but possibly Africa's strongest team), US 8, Czech Republic 2. Total 72 (Group of Death)

    Group F: Brazil 1, Croatia 20, Australia 49 (biggest dark horse, surely), Japan 15. Total 85

    Group G: France 5, Switzerland 36, South Korea 29, Togo 56. Total 126 (piece of cake)

    Group H: Spain 6, Ukraine 40, Tunisia 28, Saudi Arabia 32. Total 106 (even Spain can't ******** up this one)

    I would rather see the US go out there and make some magic to prove themselves (even if they did not advance on say goal differential), than have Spain's group, walk through the group stage and then get blown out of the second stage.

    The thing is that we must come in First in our group to avoid Brasil in the second stage. This would save me some marital trouble for sure.
  5. Morpheus1271

    Morpheus1271 Member

    May 30, 2003
    Long Island, NY
    I don't think the ranking of the 'absent' competition is irrelevant because it is a factor in the calculations of all teams rankings. So all the teams that are in the final 32 have a ranking that is base, in small part, off of each one of those matches against opponents who are 'absent'. Still carries weight.

    Also, when I say 'just what we needed' I don't think that anyone can argue the fact that if we advance out of this group there can be few, if any, questions remaining. Whereas if we advanced out of say France's group, the questions and doubt would persists...and probably only grow.
  6. ShadowNC

    ShadowNC Member

    Apr 25, 2001
    Rocky Mount, NC
    Getting a tough draw may be a blessing in disguise for us.

    Look back at 2002 and our worst game by far was against Poland, the one team that most of us figured would be our easiest game.

    Our guys seem to really respond when no one gives them a chance in hell of succeeding.

    I really feel like Italy and the Czechs WILL underestemate the US in spite of themselves. They'll say things like "we know they are a good team and we will have to play our best to beat them", but you know that deep inside they probably still doubt us. That will work to our advantage just like it did against Portugal.
  7. stinky

    stinky New Member

    May 14, 2000
    Long Beach, NY
    all we need is for either italy or czechs to be unlucky, or

    for the US to be lucky.

    there's a good chance of any of those things happening.
  8. Pints

    Pints Member

    Apr 21, 2004
    Charm City
    As much as I think we are going to bow out before advancing. I agree that this is what we need. If we are to improve and move up the ladder, and be taken more seriously so to speak, we can't sit about hoping for easy groups and sneaking in through the backdoor. As I told someone else, I am very skeptical (pessimistic if you will) but come June, I will block all that out and hope for the best.
  9. Morpheus1271

    Morpheus1271 Member

    May 30, 2003
    Long Island, NY
    with all respect stinky, i think that if the us team relies on luck, they might as well not book a flight to germany.

    if luck plays a hand after the us team has done themselves proud, so be it. but i certainly hope there not going to rely on luck.

    another bit of analysis on the prelims (showing against "best" opponent):

    - Ghana(50):South Africa(48) (2 victories)
    - Czech(2):Netherlands(3) (2 losses)
    - Italy(12):Norway(38) (2 victories)
    - USA(8):Mexico(7) (1 victory, 1 loss)

    Again, what does it mean? Nothing right? Ok.
  10. Mr Martin

    Mr Martin Member+

    Jun 12, 2002
    Philadelphia Union
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Look, the tough draw against good teams will make for three very tense games, which will make each one even more exciting as a fan. I understand that "benefit". I also understand the idea that "to be the best, you have to play the best". I can't wait for the games to actually begin. I'll be on the edge of my seat cheering for the US to win every game.

    BUT, let's be honest. Most of this is rationalization, hope and wishfull thinking. It's trying to turn lemons into lemonaide. Looking for the silver lining in the black cloud. (fill in additional cliches here _______________ ) :D

    In the pre-draw BigSoccer polls, fans overwhelmingly wanted to face Spain from Pot #1, Angola or Togo from Pot #2, and Switzerland from Pot #3. Fans strongly prefered to not face either Holland or the Czechs from Pot #3, and wanted to avoid either of the Ivory Coast, Ghana, or Paraguay from Pot #2.

    How did that work out??? :rolleyes:

    Adding to that, if the US plays well and gets the 2nd spot in Group E, we face Brazil in the 2nd Round, the team in Pot #1 fans most wanted to avoid.

    It wasn't a good draw. Period.

    Lastly, if the US had been placed in Group G (instead of Korea) and faced France, Switzerland, and Togo, Big Soccer would be going nuts with joy. I doubt we would have very many posters lamenting the missed opportunity to have drawn Group E or Group C. ;)

    Anyway, I don't mind trying to look forward and be optimistic. I think we have a decent chance of getting to Round #2, since every WC has favorites like Italy and the Czechs who stumble and underdogs who exceed expectations. But let's not get all silly with over-rationalizing what was a worse draw than US fans wanted.
  11. stinky

    stinky New Member

    May 14, 2000
    Long Beach, NY
    in games like this...luck often determines the winner...i just hope its on our side...

    look at us v. germany in 2002. they were lucky, we were unlucky.
  12. swedust

    swedust Member+

    Aug 30, 2004
    The Swedes' performance reaching the consolation round in '94 was seen in some circles as a tournament fluke; getting out of their group and having additional success in 2002 helped change that.

    If the chief complaint (on these board and around the soccer world) is that our qualifying is too easy; that our players gain no international respect; that MLS can't attract quality players from abroad; that our elite players are stunted by lack of exposure to high-quality opponents, and that we can't get more matches with quality opponents because playing us isn't worth the travel; for all these reasons, the Group E draw is just what USMNT needed.

    And while an above post that stated "it wasn't a good draw, period," this comment can be true and the premise of this thread can be true at the same time. These are not mutually exclusive ideas. A tough draw is just what the USMNT needs to gain credibility and figure out where we really stand in world soccer.

    2002 is gone. Long gone. Many familiar players and of course Bruce remain but 2002 is nothing but pleasant memories. It cannot remain as our principle yardstick. Time to move on, even if finding out how we measure up is a lesson in humility. Bring it on.

    (Geez, I didn't even think Animal House was that funny but Bluto's speech is starting to really grow on me as an applicable theme to our pre-cup campaign.)
  13. Japser17

    Japser17 New Member

    May 29, 2005
    And what if we don't win a game and are eliminated from the 2nd round before we play our final group match against Ghana?

    Is that just what we needed?
  14. swedust

    swedust Member+

    Aug 30, 2004
    Depending on how it happens (being beaten versus beating ourselves), it will force us to get real about how good or not we really are. Is that something you are reluctant to confront? I hope USSF is not; I don't think Bruce is.
  15. Morpheus1271

    Morpheus1271 Member

    May 30, 2003
    Long Island, NY
    I'd say the only thing that has less bearing on the draw than FIFA rankings is what anyone 'wanted'. It is what it is...and so now, we're left to analyze and postulate.

    Two points of this thread. There's absolutely NO need to panic....and it's is the best possible opportunity that could have been presented to further the credibility of US Soccer. Period.
  16. marchewd

    marchewd New Member

    Feb 29, 2004
    Broken Arrow, OK
    This group is a great measuring stick for our team. We are playing two Euro teams on their home soil, which many people feel are superior to us. We we advance from this group, let alone win it, it will bring the worldwide acceptance that the US is a team on the rise. This is our chance to gain the attention and respect of the entire soccer world. I think this great is great for the US. I think we will be up for the task.
  17. Soccerholic

    Soccerholic New Member

    Mar 6, 2001
    Mile High
    If the US finish second in the group, they will likely be playing Brazil in the second round.
  18. Dr. Wankler

    Dr. Wankler Member+

    May 2, 2001
    The Electric City
    Chicago Fire
    I doubt if either Italy or the Czech republic looks at Germany as "their home soil."
  19. Japser17

    Japser17 New Member

    May 29, 2005
    yes they do, its in europe, in front of european crowds. The stadiums are going to be filled with Italian and Czech supporters, it might as well be there home stadium.
  20. Mr Martin

    Mr Martin Member+

    Jun 12, 2002
    Philadelphia Union
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    (1) What people "wanted" has a 100% bearing on how they subsequently react to the actual draw. Everything going on now is reaction.

    (2) I agree there is no need to panic. The US under Arena has a good track record of exceeding expectations. I hope this continues.

    (3) I'll disagree that Group E is the "best possible opportunity."

    If the US had drawn Group G instead of South Korea, that would have been an even better opportunity:

    a. Opening game against WC newbie Togo. Good chance for a disciplined US squad to open with a win. Winning gets noticed at a WC, no matter who the opponent is.

    b. 2nd game against former WC Champ France, a top level Euro team with star players and international recognition. The US gets a chance to earn international respect just as much as against Italy and more so than against the Czechs, since the Czechs, while perhaps stronger than France, are not as well known internationally. A tie or a win by the US would make international headlines, even in the US! ;)

    c. 3d game against a solid 2nd tier Euro team from Switzerland. Even with a loss to France, the US has a good chance to still advance to the 2nd round with a result.

    d. Finish 1st or 2nd in Group G, and the US faces either Spain or Ukraine in the 2nd round. Plenty of opportunity here to earn respect with a win.

    So, to me at least, the opportunity that Group G would have offered the US would have been at least as good as Group E, and if it gave the US a stronger chance to advance, then more opportunities come with that.
  21. JohnR

    JohnR Member+

    Jun 23, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    If we advance, we will be praised. Fail to advance, we will be mocked. That is the essence of the matter, no matter how the pools fell out.

    So, "what was needed" was a damn easy pool. This could still be a damn easy pool, we gotta play the games first and then we can decide. But I doubt it, sadly.
  22. Morpheus1271

    Morpheus1271 Member

    May 30, 2003
    Long Island, NY
    Match Schedule:

    It looks like the US team has what could be considered a 'good' match schedule also. You certainly don't want to play the 'easy' team first right? Beat Ghana in game 1 and then face Italy, Czech, and likely Brazil in 1st game of round 2. UGH.

    As it stands, 2 points or better yet 3 from Italy and Czech leaves the US in a strong position to wrap things up against Ghana to finish strong in the group.
  23. Morpheus1271

    Morpheus1271 Member

    May 30, 2003
    Long Island, NY
    I think some of you are missing the point. We went into the quarterfinals in 2002 and jumped into FIFA's top 10. But who on the world stage feels that we belong there? No one. (Admittedly, the US suprised a Portugal side, but then tied South Korea (a 'home' team) and then lost to Poland. We got help to move through.) Oh, they all talk about how no one wants to face the US and how we're a "much improved side" and all the PR lines that float about.

    Fast forward to 2006 where the US side advances out of Group E. A group with the likes if Italy and Czech and a top African side. Personally I don't see the room for much doubt to remain. That's what I mean about the opportunity.

    Not the opportunity to win the world cup (though anything is possible), and it could be a blessing if we advance and somehow face Brazil early on in the tourney and advance (THATS wishful thinking I know), but the opportunity to put the nail in the coffin once and for all about US Soccer.
  24. Adam Zebrowski

    Adam Zebrowski New Member

    May 28, 1999
    I'd agree there's NO PRESSURE on the usa, since italy and the czechs are expected to advance...

    so, I'd expect usa to perform well, and we'll see what happens
  25. Japser17

    Japser17 New Member

    May 29, 2005
    I think there is lots of pressure on the US. The pressure comes not from the soccer world, but from our own fans.

    We like to believe that we have arrived in the world of soccer based on the 2002 world cup. Which is not the case at all. We are not thought of as a soccer nation because we have still done nothing to deserve to be mentioned with the top teams in the worlds.

    Based on the 2002 world cup Holland and the Czechs are not even in the top 32 teams in the world because they didn't even qualify. and France, Argentina, and Portugal are not in the top 16 in the world because they didn't get out of the group stage. When in fact those are 5 of the top 10 teams in the world.

    The people who know nothing about soccer in this country expect the US team to do well again, no matter who we have to play. And the Fans of US soccer expect to do well again because they think we are a contender.

    The fact is that we are not a contender, we are still not at that elite level no matter what the FIFA rankings say.

    If the US go out in the first round, everything that the US gained by the good showing in 2002 is out the window.

    This is not what US soccer needed, it is the exact opposite. The US team needed an easy group and hopefully an solid opponent in the 2nd round. What they didn't need is a hard group which will likely send them packing, only to find Brazil waiting if they somehow manage to get to the 2nd round.

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