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USA fear toughest ever World Cup draw but relish chance to make history

Dec 5, 2013, 12:00 PM EDT

Michael Bradley, Tim Howard AP

EXCLUSIVE — After asking plenty of U.S. national team players how strong the other nations are that they’ll be facing at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, I got the same initial response from most of them.

They puff their cheeks out and look down to the ground in a reflective pause before answering the question. Without saying anything, they’ve already answered my question.

On Friday, the draw for the World Cup next summer in Brazil will finally be made after 32 nations have risen to the top of international soccer and qualified. Now they’ll find out who they can pit their wits against in the Group Stages in South America next June.

Arguably the 20th edition of the world’s greatest sporting showpiece will be the hardest test yet. Is that the way the USA see it?

“Yeah… that’s the way it looks when you break down the pots,” U.S. ‘keeper Tim Howard said. “Who can get who and potential match ups. It’s hard with so many different challengers. I’ll be an interested observer come December 6. But at the moment I’m not trying to figure out too many scenarios.”

(MORE: 2014 FIFA World Cup Draw – Here’s how it’s going to work)

Central midfielder Michael Bradley, who will arguably be the USA’s most pivotal player in Brazil, echoes Howard’s sentiments that an incredibly tough task lies ahead as all the big names in world soccer will be in Brazil.

“For sure, when you start looking at the pots and looking at the draws… you realize it,” the AS Roma maestro said. “Look. it’s going to be a good World Cup and there’s not going to be any easy groups, that’s for sure.”

Placed in Pot 3, the USA are unseeded for the tournament and know a clash against either the host Brazil or one of the big names in European or South American soccer awaits. Jurgen Klinsmann’s side are up for the battle and after an encouraging year that has seen them knock off some top European opponents in friendlies and totally dominate CONCACAF, they’re better equipped than they’ve ever been for a World Cup, expect this one is a tournament many are calling the toughest in living memory.

(MORE: What US Soccer wants from the World Cup draw)

Howard believes the fact that he’s now a veteran of two World Cups, and most of his teammates are too, will help the USA reach the top of their game when the big matches come around in Brazil.

“When you play at the highest level the more big matches you can have, the bigger occasions you can have, it just kind of hardens you and allows you to have that fear factor dissipate,” Howard said furrowing his brow. “Because you’ve been there before and you’re not rattled by the crowd, the occasion or the moment or ‘oh my god this is a big game, we need a result.’ We’ve been there and done that, so that’s what you see our players are all about. And that’s why it’s  important to have senior players in your team so you can settle everyone’s nerves.”

(MORE: 2014 FIFA World Cup Draw – Everything you need to know)

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Klinsmann and his team face an anxious wait on Wednesday to see which nations they’ll face in the Group Stage.

There will be some World Cup virgins in the U.S. squad though, and Stoke City defender Geoff Cameron is one of them. Recently when I spoke to the man many believe is nailed on to be the USA’s starting right back at the World Cup, Cameron insisted he’s just focusing on getting to Brazil and isn’t too bothered about the draw.

“It’s all about just putting your name on the list,” Cameron said. “That’s obviously the goal, going to the World Cup. You just have to be consistent and be a regular player and go from there, little baby steps you know? I’ll watch the draw on December 6 and kind of go from there.”

(MORE: 2014 FIFA World Cup Draw – The sum of all fears scenario for the United States)

Right now, as all the different permutations and worries about who the USA will be playing in Brazil swim around the heads of management, players and fans, what we can expect when the USMNT turn up in South America in six months time has sort of fallen by the wayside.

(MORE: 2014 World Cup Simulator – One last time, lets fret over how hard it’ll be for USA)

So, what can Klinsmann’s men achieve? Is a semifinal berth out of the question, or is the aim to just get out of the group?

“It’s always a tough one to put your finger on,” Howard said. ‘I think our best ever finish was quarter finals [in the modern era], I think if you look at this team and the results that we’ve had and how we’re put together, certainly we want to get out of our group as we did in 2010. Unfortunately we lost in the second round, but we feel like if we can win that game and get ourselves to the quarter finals… we’re in touching distance of doing something special. What that is, I don’t know. But we’re all going to try and get ourselves back to that quarterfinal game.”

Make sure you log onto NBCSports.com and ProSoccerTalk for live updates of the World Cup draw and plenty of analysis and reaction from Brazil.

  1. hildezero - Dec 5, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    Tough opponents or not, bring it on, man.

  2. geojock - Dec 5, 2013 at 1:03 PM

    The potential to draw the ultimate group of death doesn’t put a semi-final berth anymore out of the question. It may make the group stage harder, but doesn’t make the knockout rounds any harder. If you advance, at least you know that two top teams are out.

    Also, a group of death can be very interesting. When #4 can beat #1, all things are out the window. A key there is timing of matches. Can you surprise the first to steal 3 points or grind out a point with a team that only needs a draw to advance?

  3. The Strange Attractor - Dec 5, 2013 at 5:47 PM

    To (mis)quote the Watchmen, “I’m not locked in here with you, you’re locked in here with ME!”

    The US has a good squad. Even with its flaws, the FIFA ranking represents the US playing well these past few years. I’m looking forward to the draw – and I doubt any team out there will be happy with the US in their group.

  4. agudelo89 - Dec 5, 2013 at 7:51 PM

    All you read coming out of US soccer media, is USMNT Fearing being grouped with tough competition, What does that say about their belief in their chances?

    Seems they’re only reaching for final 16, And frankly they’d be lucky to get that much.

    • danielofthedale - Dec 5, 2013 at 8:01 PM

      Well there is two reasons that the media is focusing on a hard draw, its human nature and it drives clicks and discussions. People always tend to focus much more about any negative outcome that could happen than on the positive. The second part is that people are much more likely to read a headline or comment on the article if focuses on the negative.

      I also think you read the soccer reporting from the other nations I am guess most of them are also focusing on the worse aspects of the possible draw. And the first goal should be reaching the Round of 16, only four nations are close to stone cold locks to get out of their groups, Brazil, Germany, Spain, and Argentina but even they could fall victim to the dreaded Group of Death.

  5. starderup - Dec 6, 2013 at 7:09 AM

    The worlds greatest sporting event? Maybe elsewhere, but you can’t pay most Americans to watch this sport at all. The few U.S. fans are diehard, but get real.

    • footballer4ever - Dec 6, 2013 at 9:20 AM

      Wow! You sound utterly offended by that. :P

      You should get real or simple get out of your mancave. Football’s World Cup is the greatest sporting event, like it or not, and anything else does not even come close to that. The USA had been dormant to the WC, but those tides continue to grow with each passing WC.

      Again, you should get real, but by the way you expressed yourself you are better off staying enclosed in your closed-minded neanderthal cave. ;)

    • zinjaboy - Dec 6, 2013 at 10:27 AM

      Actually, it is the world’s greatest sporting event. And if you look at audience numbers, it’s not even close. The Cup’s final game is the single most viewed sporting event on earth. The 2010 match between Spain and The Netherlands was watched by 700 million people. That’s a runaway number.

      In the US? No … but the article didn’t say the greatest sporting event in the U.S. It said “the world’s greatest sporting showpiece” and of that there is no doubt.

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