6
Dec

World Cup Draw puts USA into the “Group of Death”

It just had to be this way, didn’t it?

The United States were drawn with Portugal, Germany and eternal World Cup nemesis Ghana in next summer’s “Group of Death.”

Before the draw began, many on Twitter joked they couldn’t wait to see how FIFA would rig the draw. It’s not so funny anymore. The draw may not have been rigged, but the opposition the Americans will face is certainly stacked.

Group G is riddled with some fantastic story lines. The USA first got drawn against the two countries that eliminated them in the past four World Cups (Ghana in 2010 and 2006, and Germany in 2002 and in 1998). Jurgen Klinsmann is facing the team he led to a third-place finish in 2006 and won a World Cup with in 1990. Germany’s Jerome Boateng will line up against his brother Kevin-Prince and Ghana. And if that wasn’t enough, the powers that be tossed in the world’s top player at the moment, Cristiano Ronaldo. Ooof!

Predictably, the response on twitter was a mix of giddy excitement and pure, unbridled terror:

Group G isn’t the only tricky group next summer. Far from it. You could make a good case that England’s group (D) is just as difficult to navigate as the USA’s. The Three Lions will have to face Uruguay and Italy in Group D. Luis Suarez and Mario Balotelli are licking their chops as you’re reading this. And while Costa Rica is presumably the clear underdog, you just have to ask the US or Mexico how difficult they are to beat.

Meanwhile, Group B pits the finalists of the last World Cup together in what is the matchup of the group stage, while Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal’s Chile also join the party.
27
Nov

Breaking down the “Group of Death”

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With one matchday to go, Arsenal are sitting on 12 points in Group F but are still not officialy through to the Round of 16. How can that be? Thanks to Marseille losing each of their first five games, Dortmund and Napoli are both sitting on nine points and are also very much in the running for a place in the knockout stage.

If Napoli beat Arsenal at home on the final day and Dortmund take care of Marseille as expected, all three teams would sit on 12 points. And thanks to UEFA’s peculiar tie-breaking rules, figuring out who would move on in that very possible scenario is not so simple.

In all three teams are tied on 12 points, the two with the best goal difference in matches involving only the three clubs in question move on to the Round of 16. The results against Marseille get thrown out. In those games, Arsenal lead with a +2 goal difference, while Dortmund are +1, and Napoli are -3.

Since Dortmund plays Marseille last, they will remain at +1 and, if all three clubs are on 12 points, will definitely advance. In that scenario, Arsenal would still move on if they lose by less than three goals.

Here are the scenarios each team would need to qualify:

Arsenal: A win or tie in Napoli will be enough to put them through, as would a Dortmund loss or draw. If Dortmund win, the Gunners can also advance if they lose to Napoli by less than three goals.

Dortmund: Very straightforward: a win and they’re in. A draw would be enough if Arsenal tie or beat Napoli. A loss to Marseille could still be enough if Arsenal beat Napoli.

Napoli: They face the toughest road. If Napoli win by three or more goals, they are guaranteed a spot in the next round. A win by anything less and they’ll need Marseille to get at least a point against Dortmund. If Napoli tie against the Gunners, Marseille would need to beat Dortmund.

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30
Aug

Champions League Group D (as in death) Predicted Finishes

Here is a synopsis of each club and their projected finishes from Leander Schaerlaeckens. Check back all day for each group’s predictions.

Group D:

1. REAL MADRID

Champions League titles: 9 (6 as the European Cup)

The kings of Spain have got off to a rough start this season but they are loaded with talent. New signing Luka Modric will help their midfield immensely and Cristiano Ronaldo remains one of the deadliest players in the game. Jose Mourinho knows that he cannot stand still, and has been working on retooling his squad but so far the early results are discouraging: Real started the season with two losses and has to buckle down if they hope to retain their title.

2. BORUSSIA DORTMUND

Champions League titles: 1

Dortmund isn’t the first German team that comes to mind — but they should be. The reigning Bundesliga champs have avoided the self-defeating silliness that tends to surround rivals Bayern and don’t seem to be impacted by player dealings. They lost a star in Shinji Kagawa to United but still boast Jakub “Kuba” Blaszczyowski and Mario Goetze to make things happen and have a great deal of fiber at either end of the field. Robert Lewandowski has been superb for them up top, one-time American Neven Subotic is a stalwart at the back. Dortmund are also eager to avoid their flop last year in Group F, where they lost four games. This is a multi-tool team that is going to be handful for anyone to face.

3. MANCHESTER CITY

Champions League titles: 0

The reigning Premier League champs have made only tentative steps to reload their arsenal with Jack Rodwell being their lone import at press time. But they still possess a lot of tools and should fare better with a year of European experience under their belts. Carlos Tevez and David Silva remain potent weapons and Sergio Aguero will be back soon enough to provide bite. Yaya Toure is their not-so-secret weapon and Vincent Kompany is clearly one of the best defenders anywhere. If City lack something, it is freshness: they feel like a team that has stood pat rather than one that has looked to grow. How that affects them in the Premier League and the Champions League is open to debate.

4. AJAX

Champions League titles: 4 (3 as the European Cup)

One of the great teams in European soccer, Ajax’s luster has faded in recent decades with the decline of the Dutch soccer league. Most of the nation’s top talents no longer play in the Eredivisie and Ajax looks to develop talent and then sell them on. Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham) and Vurnon Anita (Newcastle) moved this summer and there are many others coming through the ranks. Ajax still has solid players like midfielder Siem de Jong  (brother of Moenchengladbach’s Luuk) and old head Christian Poulsen. This is a respectable Ajax team – just not one good enough for this level. Fun fact: No one at the club can wear the number 14. That belonged to Johan Cruyff and the club retired it in 2007.