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

Lippi leads China over SKorea 1-0 in World Cup qualifier

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) Marcello Lippi earned his biggest victory since taking over as coach of China’s national soccer team, leading his squad to a 1-0 victory over South Korea on Thursday in a World Cup qualifier.

[ MORE: Shorthanded USMNT hosts Honduras as WCQ resumes ]

The coach, who led his native Italy to the World Cup title in 2006, was hired by China in October.

Yu Dabao scored the lone goal at Helong Stadium in Changsha with a header in the 34th minute, giving China only its second victory over South Korea in 32 matches.

China spent much of the second half defending with the visitors piling on the pressure. Ki Seung-yeung and Ji Dong-won both went close for South Korea but could not find a way past China goalkeeper Zeng Cheng.

South Korea has 10 points from six matches in Group A and is still on course to qualify for the World Cup in Russia. China, which last qualified for the World Cup in 2002, has five points.

Only the top two teams from the six-nation group qualify automatically. The third-place team will head to the playoffs.

CONMEBOL wrap: Brazil routs Uruguay, Messi guides Argentina past Chile

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A roundup of Thursday’s action from around CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying…

[ MORE: USMNT looks to build momentum against Honduras in WCQ ]

Paulinho‘s hat-trick helped bring Brazil back from an early deficit as the Selecao topped Uruguay, 4-1. Edinson Cavani put the hosts ahead after nine minutes from the penalty spot, but it was Paulinho that answered 10 minutes later for his first of the night. Neymar also tallied for the Brazilians, who continue to lead CONMEBOL qualifying with 30 points.

Lionel Messi scored in the first half to help lift Argentina over Chile, 1-0. The Barcelona attacker scored after 16 minutes when Angel di Maria was taken down inside the Chilean area by José Fuenzalida. Chile was held to just one shot on target throughout, and the loss leaves the reigning Copa America winners on the outside looking in at the top five.

James Rodriguez rescued Colombia on Thursday as the Real Madrid winger capitalized off of his penalty-kick rebound to give Los Cafeteros a 1-0 win over Bolivia. Goalkeeper Carlos Lampe did his best to preserve a draw for the visitors, recording six saves on the afternoon, however, it wasn’t enough to tame Colombia.

Meanwhile, Paraguay knocked off Ecuador, 2-1, behind goals from Bruno Valdez and Junior Alonso. The visitors pulled a goal back in the 70th minute when Felipe Caicedo converted from the penalty spot, but it wasn’t enough for Ecuador.

Peru battled back with two second-half goals to preserve a 2-2 draw against Venezuela on the road. The hosts got out to a 2-0 advantage before halftime when Mikel Villanueva and Romulu Otero scored for Venezuela, however, the Peruvians struck back in the second stanza to knick a point. Andre Carrillo and Paolo Guerrero scored in the 46th and 64th minutes, respectively, for Peru.


Thursday’s results

Colombia 1-0 Bolivia
Paraguay 2-1 Ecuador
Uruguay 1-4 Brazil
Argentina 1-0 Chile
Venezuela 2-2 Peru


Updated CONMEBOL table

  1. Brazil — 9-3-1 — 30 pts.
  2. Uruguay — 7-2-4 — 23 pts.
  3. Argentina — 6-4-3 — 22 pts.
  4. Colombia — 6-3-4 — 21 pts.
  5. Ecuador — 6-2-4 — 20 pts.
  6. Chile — 6-2-5 — 20 pts.
  7. Paraguay — 5-3-5 — 18 pts.
  8. Peru — 4-3-6 — 15 pts.
  9. Bolivia — 2-1-9 — 7 pts.
  10. Venezuela — 1-3-9 — 6 pts.

Ex-Disney CEO Eisner eyes English soccer club Portsmouth

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PORTSMOUTH, England (AP) Michael Eisner, the former chief executive of The Walt Disney Co., is in talks to buy English soccer club Portsmouth.

The fourth-tier club says it has entered into a 70-day exclusivity agreement with Eisner for takeover talks to take place.

Eisner wrote on Twitter: “Exciting times! Looking forward to coming over and meeting you all. Good luck against Newport County on Saturday!!”

Portsmouth, which is based on the south coast, spent beyond its means in the pursuit of glory. The team endured financial turmoil in the years following its 2008 FA Cup win, sinking from the Premier League to the fourth tier.

After entering bankruptcy protection, Portsmouth was rescued by the fans through a trust in 2013.

CONCACAF: USMNT, Trinidad & Tobago seek first points of Hexagonal

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Through two rounds of play in the Hexagonal, everything has gone according to plan for Mexico and Costa Rica.

Not so much though for the U.S. Men’s National Team.

[ MORE: Shorthanded USMNT hosts Honduras as WCQ resumes ]

While Los Ticos and El Tri currently sit in the top two positions of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, the U.S. is left at the bottom and faces a difficult match against Honduras when play resumes on Friday night.

[ MORE: Five questions for USMNT ahead of Honduras match ]

Mexico and Costa Rica will face off at the Estadio Azteca in the second of Friday’s three slated qualifiers, and while both nations surely expect to reach the World Cup in Russia, both CONCACAF heavyweights have the opportunity to put their stamp on the group.

For Costa Rica, a victory could potentially open up a five-point gap over El Tri, while a win for Mexico would bring Juan Carlos Osorio’s side the opportunity leap over their Central American foes.

Friday’s action will kick off at 7 p.m. though when third place Panama travels to Trinidad & Tobago, who seeks its first points of the Hex. Trinidad will be led by captain Kenwyne Jones of Atlanta United as well as Minnesota United midfielder Kevin Molino, with the duo scoring a combined 39 international goals for the Soca Warriors.

Below is the schedule and current table ahead of Friday’s CONCACAF matches as the region turns its attention to Matchday 3 of the Hexagonal.


Trinidad & Tobago vs. Panama — 7 p.m. ET

Mexico vs. Costa Rica — 9:50 p.m. ET

USMNT vs. Honduras — 10:30 p.m. ET (PREVIEW)


1. Costa Rica — 2-0-0 — 6 pts.
2. Mexico — 1-1-0 — 4 pts.
3. Panama — 1-1-0 — 4 pts.
4. Honduras — 1-0-1 — 3 pts.
5. Trinidad & Tobago — 0-0-2 — 0 pts.
6. USMNT — 0-0-2 — 0 pts.