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
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
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
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
”Football produces crazy stories,” Klinsmann said.
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
As for goalkeeper, what’s that about if you can’t say something
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
”There were not going to be many scenarios where we were going
to be jumping for joy,” manager Roy Hodgson said.
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
”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.
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
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.