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US National Team
Jeff Maurer's Soccer Blog
Friday, 9 December 2005
World Cup Draw (pregame)
Topic: US National Team

  Let me quickly get on the record before it happens: here is my opinion of what would be a good, average, and bad draw for the US in today's World Cup draw.  By far the most important pot is pot 3, the one with all the European teams; the team we get from this pot will most likely be the team we fight for second place in our group.  The team we play from pot 1 (the one with the top seeds) is somewhat important, in that we have virtually no chance of displacing Brazil, whereas we've got an outside shot of ousting Spain or France.  Our draw from pot 2 (the African teams and the unseeded South American teams) makes virtually no difference to me whatsoever (unless we get an exceptionally weak team from pot 3, in which case the pot 2 team could potentially threaten for a top 2 finish in the group), as this will be the weakest team in our group and a stronger weakest team is just as likely to help us as hurt us.  So, here's my opinion of what would be a good, average, and bad draw, working from least important to most important.

Pot 2:
Good draw: Togo, Angola
Average draw: Tunisia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Australia, Ecuador
Bad draw: Paraguay

Pot 1:
Good draw: Spain, France
Average draw: Italy, England, Argentina
Bad draw: Brazil, Germany

Pot 3:
Good draw: Switzerland, Ukraine, Croatia
Average draw: Poland, Sweden
Bad draw: Portugal
Horrible draw: Netherlands, Czech Republic

  So, to boil it down: if we get put in a group with Netherlands or Czech Republic, I think we're just about screwed.  Being in with Portugal, Brazil, or Germany would also be very bad (though I'd like to see us play Germany again).  As long as we avoid these scenarios, I'll consider us lucky.

  Some quick notes: I also don't want to play Serbia-Montenegro (who, because of convoluted rules, are in their own pot); they are hot right now (having just beat arch-rivals - and not just in soccer - Bosnia Herzegovena in a must-win match) and hate us.  As for Germany, many people argue that they are at a low ebb right now, and I agree, but home field advantage in the World Cup is always - always, no exceptions whatsoever in the 72 year history of the tournament - huge. 

  Finally, there is some good news: because we are the highest seeded non-seeded team, and becuase we are by far the toughest team in our pot, there is a good chance that whatever group we get drawn into will become known as the "group of death".  For those of you new to soccer, the European press almost always designate one group to be the "group of death" (that phrase is almost as official as "sweet 16" is in basketball), then delight in predicting impending doom for those unlucky teams.  The two that emerge from that group (England and Sweden last time around) get an extra dose of respect.  So there's an excellent chance that Le Monde and Der Spiegel and The London Times will annoint our group the "group of death", then give us extra credit should we emerge from that group in spite of the fact that the group was only considered difficult by virtue of the fact that we were in it.

Posted by jeffmaurer1980 at 2:14 PM EST
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Tuesday, 6 December 2005
Topic: US National Team
  The U.S. barely missed out on a World Cup top 8 seed today, meaning that our road to the second round will be much more difficult than that of Mexico (against whom we are 7-2-1 in the last 5 years, with a goal differential of 14-3).  FIFA is dominated by the European countries, which causes me to wonder: what did we do that offended Europe so badly?  Besides this: Rice Defends Tactics Used Against Suspects.  And this: US Admits Wrongful Detention, German Chancellor Says.  And this: CIA Ruse Damages Probe in Milan.  And that's just stuff that happened today.

Posted by jeffmaurer1980 at 2:15 PM EST
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