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2014 FIFA World Cup Draw: Remember “E-A-S-Y”? U.S. could get another, or maybe luck will even out

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Four years ago, this cover (right) from The Sun got under the skin protecting U.S. soccer’s rumored chipped shoulder, the English press’s “Phew” describing a draw that placed the Three Lions with Algeria, Slovenia, and the United States for South Africa 2010. Joke was on them: England would go on to finish second in a group that was always likely to be weak. After all, the packet’s seeded team was one of the least threatening in the tournament.

We’ve talked about it before, but you just can’t have a Group of Death Pain if it’s seeded team doesn’t inspire fear, and with four of Brazil 2014’s teams either questionable (Switzerland), promising but unproven (Belgium, Colombia) or unconvincing in 2013 (Uruguay), there are a lot of ways to avoid an particularly difficult group. Especially since a good-but-not-great teams like Bosnia, Croatia, Greece and Russia could be pulled from the European bucket to take up new residence in Pot Two for the draw, there’s a good chance the United States will avoid one of the worst case scenarios.

[MORE: World Cup Draw: United States in Pot Three]

But say the U.S. gets unlucky and that roughly 1-in-8 chance of an eye-bulger comes good on Friday. Say the U.S. will have to navigate Spain, Chile, and Italy to get to another knock out round. The odds would certainly be against the team advancing out of their group, but in light of what happened in 2010, it would hardly be cause to rue the unfair nature of World Cup draws. The U.S.’s group for South Africa was one of the easiest draws any team could have hoped for. Should a team expect to get those kinds of breaks every time they qualify for a World Cup?

It would be nice if we could find a way to make these groups as even as possible. FIFA should keep working toward that, but it’s not going to happen anytime soon. Until then, some teams will get easy draws, while others will get hard ones. It would be nice if the same teams didn’t always get primrose paths, just like we don’t want the same nations always being undone by overly tough opposition. Ideally, things would even out.

[MORE: 2014 FIFA World Cup Draw: The sum of all fears scenario for the United States]

Regardless, it’s curious that so much more attention is paid to the Group of Pain, though it seems like human nature to do so. I alluded to that mythical shoulder chip U.S. soccer is supposed to carry around, but elsewhere in the soccer world there’s also more attention paid to nightmare draws than easy roads. This isn’t just stateside paranoia. When it comes to draw scenarios, everybody fixates on the bad to the exclusion of the good.

And although those other places tend to have an undo disregard for U.S. Soccer, it’s worth noting: Many parts of the world would have a hard time considering a draw with the United States as a Group of Death. Reputation being what it is, many are going to look at Pot Three and see Mexico and Asia’s champions (Japan) as the danger teams, with the U.S. as a plucky yet limited side. What we in the U.S. see as a Group of Death might be a regular draw to the rest of the soccer world.

[MORE: 2014 FIFA World Cup Draw: Here’s how it’s going to work]

But if you’re U.S. focused and wary of that Group of Pain, Friday will start to get interesting when Pot Two is drawn. If there’s a strong European team (Italy, Netherlands, or Portugal), they’ll join Chile, Ivory Coast, Ghana and (to a lesser extent) Nigeria as the danger squads. Whichever are drawn with Brazil, Spain, Germany, or Argentina will quickly form the groups to avoid. When final pot is drawn, U.S. fans should hope to miss those same strong European sides. At least two will still be Pot Four.

You could also elect to spend the next two-plus days thinking about the best case scenarios, though. While all the seeded teams will be tough, being drawn with Switzerland, Colombia or Uruguay would be considered a minor victory, especially if Pot Two has already revealed Algeria, Cameroon, or Ecuador. While there’s no particular reason to believe that’s how the draw will play out, it could prove a nice alternative to this week’s inevitable Group of D—- talk.

[MORE: 2014 FIFA World Cup Draw: So we’re not using the world rankings to solve the nine-team pot problem?]

Teams to “want” on Friday:

  • Group A: Switzerland, Colombia, Uruguay
  • Group B: Algeria, Cameroon, Ecuador, lesser European team, Nigeria
  • Group D: Greece, England, Croatia, Bosnia, Russia

Coleman explains why he stayed as Wales coach, rejected Hull

ZENICA, BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA - OCTOBER 10: Head coach Chris Coleman of Wales celebrates after the Euro 2016 qualifying football match between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Wales at the Stadium Bilino Polje in Elbasan on October 10, 2015. (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)
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CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Chris Coleman says he chose to remain as Wales manager despite interest from Premier League side Hull because he’s in a job that is “close to his heart.”

The Football Association of Wales rejected an approach for Coleman from Hull this month, with the Welshman deciding to stay on rather than resigning.

Coleman, who guided Wales to the European Championship semifinals against the odds, said on Wednesday that “if someone comes and it’s the Premier League, anybody, you kind of look at it sideways. Of course.”

But, Coleman added, managing your country “comes around once, if you’re lucky.”

Coleman has made no secret of his desire to manage in club football in the future, but says “what I’ve got here is something very special and close to my heart.”

FOLLOW LIVE: The UEFA Champions League finds its last five group stage teams

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 24:  Joe Hart of Manchester City warms up prior to the UEFA Champions League Play-off Second Leg match between Manchester City and Steaua Bucharest at Etihad Stadium on August 24, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Who’s going to join Porto, Monaco, Legia Warsaw, Ludogorets Razgrad and Celtic as playoff teams to join the UEFA Champions League group stage?

The biggest names of Wednesday’s slate are cruising after their first legs, with Manchester City and Borussia Monchengladbach putting five and three goals on the board, respectively.

[ MORE: Champions League Tues. roundup ]

Could the match be Joe Hart‘s last for City? The longtime backstop gets the call with the transfer window a week away.

In the other three cases, things are wide open. Rostov plays Ajax, Red Bull Salzburg faces Dinamo Zagreb, and APOEL lines up Copenhagen.

Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League slateFOLLOW LIVE

Borussia Monchengladbach (3) vs. (1) BSC Young Boys
Rostov (1) vs. (1) Ajax
Red Bull Salzburg (1) vs. (1) Dinamo Zagreb
APOEL (0) vs. (1) Copenhagen
Manchester City (5) vs. Steaua Bucuresti (0)

FOLLOW LIVE – EFL CUP: Four Americans in the 18 for Fulham, Sunderland, Bournemouth

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Lynden Gooch of Sunderland challenges David Silva of Manchester City during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Sunderland at Etihad Stadium on August 13, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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The newly-renamed EFL Cup, formerly the League Cup, rolls on Wednesday with four more matches ahead of the evening’s third-round draw.

American attacker Lynden Gooch starts for Sunderland, while Tim Ream starts for Fulham and Luca de la Torre is on the Cottagers’ bench. Emerson Hyndman is on the bench for Bournemouth.

Tuesday’s action saw Premier League sides West Brom and Watford excused from the tournament.

Wednesday’s EFL Cup scheduleFOLLOW LIVE

Accrington Stanley vs. Burnley
Fulham vs. Middlesbrough
Morecambe vs. Bournemouth
Sunderland vs. Shrewsbury Town

L.A. Galaxy’s Keane retires from Republic of Ireland duty

DUBLIN, IRELAND - OCTOBER 11:  Robbie Keane of Republic of Ireland applauds the fans during the EURO 2016 Qualifier match between Republic of Ireland and Gibraltar at Aviva Stadium on October 11, 2014 in Dublin, Ireland.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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Robbie Keane is ending a big chapter in his career.

Fear not, Galaxy fans, the 36-year-old living L.A. legend isn’t calling it quits on club soccer, but Keane is done with representing the Republic of Ireland.

Keane will play one more game for the Boys in Green, a friendly against Oman next week, before leaving the Republic to qualify for the World Cup without him.

[ MORE: Yedlin, Newcastle make it official ]

In a sprawling and understandably emotional — if not moving — statement, Keane says he isn’t going to stop playing for his club anytime soon, and that he hardly dreamed he’d get to this point.

No player has been capped (145) or scored (67) as many times for Ireland than Keane.