That collective groan Friday was the sound of United States soccer fans upon hearing their team was placed into what appears to be a brutally hard group for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The Americans have to play three-time champion Germany; Portugal, with superstar Cristiano Ronaldo; and Ghana, which has knocked the U.S. team out of the past two World Cups.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s team must take a trip into the Amazon jungle to play Portugal in Manaus.
“We hit the worst of the worst,” Klinsmann said after the World Cup draw. “There will be some problems from an organizational standpoint. The past few days, everyone was saying, ‘Anywhere but Manaus.’ Well, we got Manaus. No excuses, but obviously a tough one.”
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In Group G, the Americans play Ghana on June 16 in Natal; Portugal on June 22 in Manaus; and Germany on June 26 in Recife.
Klinsmann was a standout for champion Germany in the 1990 World Cup and coached the Germans to third place in 2006.
U.S. captain Clint Dempsey, who plays for Sounders FC in Major League Soccer, said, “I think we have the quality, if we play our best ball, to get out of the group.”
Oddsmakers Keith Glantz and Russell Culver put U.S. odds of winning the 32-team World Cup at 150-1.