Something for everyone to talk about in WCup draw

There are scores to settle, family feuds and no shortage of

karmic reckoning. For something so random, Friday’s World Cup draw

delivered a blockbuster mix of intrigue, entertainment and story

lines that will keep folks talking from now until the tournament

kicks off June 12.

Here are a few you should know:

THE AMERICANS AND REVENGE

As soon as Ghana was drawn into Group G with Germany, you just

knew the United States was going to wind up there, too. Maybe it’s

payback for that snow game against Costa Rica, maybe the soccer

gods just have a wicked sense of humor. But throw in Portugal, and

this group has more drama than any soap opera. (More difficulty,

too, with an average ranking of 11.25, lowest by far of any of the

eight groups.)

Ghana’s Black Stars aren’t Africa’s best team, but they have the

Americans’ number, ousting them from both the 2006 and 2010 World

Cups. The Portuguese were stunned by the Americans in 2002. Don’t

think the Portuguese have forgotten. Or forgiven.

Portugal also has the Master of Hair Products and Diving,

Cristiano Ronaldo. He is deservedly considered the best player in

the world along with Lionel Messi, and the Americans – who struggle

against attackers with half his speed – will have nowhere to

hide.

KLINSMANN VS. GERMANY

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann is married to an American, and has

lived in Southern California for the better part of the last two

decades. But he’s from Germany, and has figured as much in Die

Mannschaft’s history as its red, yellow and black color scheme. He

played on the West German team that won the 1990 World Cup, then

coached the Germans to a third-place finish in the 2006 tournament

played in their country.

Klinsmann stepped down after the 2006 World Cup, and Germany is

still coached by his longtime friend, Joachim Loew.

”Obviously, there are a lot of emotions involved. It’s normal.

I’m German,” Klinsmann said. ”It’s going to be a special

moment.”

Not just for him, either. Klinsmann has aggressively courted

dual-nationality players, most of whom are German-Americans. There

could be four or five on the U.S. World Cup roster, with

midfielders Jermaine Jones and Fabian Johnson likely starters.

Imagine Phil Jackson’s Lakers facing his old Bulls, with a third

of the Los Angeles roster originally from Chicago, and you get the

picture.

”Football produces crazy stories,” Klinsmann said.

ENGLISH WOES

England fans are notoriously dour and hard on their team. This

time, they’ve got good reason.

The Three Lions weren’t exactly inspiring in qualifying. Sure,

there were thrashings of Moldova and San Marino. But England also

tied Montenegro and needed a late goal against Poland just to get

to Brazil. Comparing its defense to a sieve isn’t much of a stretch

and, no, bringing John Terry back isn’t the answer. A matured Wayne

Rooney might be at his best yet, but his supporting cast is

weak.

As for goalkeeper, what’s that about if you can’t say something

nice?

Then came the draw, where England landed in Group D with 2010

semifinalist Uruguay and 2006 champion Italy, with a game in the

one place they desperately wanted to avoid, the jungle city of

Manaus.

”There were not going to be many scenarios where we were going

to be jumping for joy,” manager Roy Hodgson said.

THE WEATHER

Hodgson caused an uproar when he said he hoped his team could

avoid Manaus, with the mayor of the jungle city responding that he

didn’t want the English, anyway. But the English aren’t the only

ones not thrilled with their tropical destinations.

Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said he’s even considering

switching his team’s training camp, which was to be near Sao Paolo,

after the Swiss drew games in Manaus and Salvador. The average June

temperature in Salvador is 83 degrees, with 10 inches of

rainfall.

”We must adapt to the climatic conditions,” Hitzfeld said.

Even the African teams are nervous about the effects of the heat

and humidity, with most of their players coming to the World Cup

from their club teams in Europe.

”It’s very, very hot and the climate maybe is difficult,”

Cameroon coach Volker Finke said.

LUCKY DRAW

Looking for a dark horse to make the final? France.

Sure, the French put the ”fun” in dysfunction with their petty

squabbling and early exit in South Africa, then needed a playoff

just to get to Brazil. But they’re leading a charmed life now after

landing in Group E, one of the most favorable draws of the day. The

French must play Switzerland, considered the lightweight of the

seeded teams, Ecuador and Honduras.

Best of all, they have no long-haul trips to the north, making

their group-stage travel look more like an easy commute compared to

the treks some teams are making.

”It’s rather good news,” France coach Didier Deschamps

acknowledged.

BIG WINNERS

Looking for a team to follow – literally? You can’t go wrong

with Ghana or Mexico.

Both might struggle to make it out of group play, but that won’t

matter. They each have games in Natal and Fortaleza, two of the

most scenic host cities.

In fact, early exits might be preferable. All the more time to

enjoy the beach.