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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

Ronaldo shows no sign of injury while hanging with Conor McGregor

instagram.com/cristiano/
instagram.com/cristiano/
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Cristiano Ronaldo may not be ready for the UEFA Super Cup, but he’s no longer limping around.

To explore the Real Madrid superstar’s Instagram is to see Ronaldo, sometimes clothed, hanging out with celebrities.

In the last couple weeks we’ve seen him with Eva Longoria, Jennifer Lopez, and now his “bro” Conor McGregor.

[ MORE: Who wins the League of Hate? ]

Wait, what?

Yeah, Ronaldo is friends with the MMA star, and showed no ill form (and no brace of any kind) in several posed photos with McGregor.

Although admittedly, McGregor’s IG game is a bit better: The Irish fighter posted a photo of himself sunning in his briefs with the caption, “I’m gonna get him on the Forbes list by next year. But I’m gonna get him on the tan by next week.”

Good luck with both, bro.

Great to see you bro!!💪🏽🔝

A photo posted by Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano) on Jul 24, 2016 at 3:48pm PD

Bruce pens letter to Hull fans: “Desperately wanted to make it work”

YORK, ENGLAND - JULY 23: Steve Bruce manager of  Hull City ahead of the pre-season friendly match between York City and Hull City at Bootham Cresent on July 23, 2014  in York, England. (Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)
Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images
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Many Hull City fans didn’t want Steve Bruce to leave the club, and this open letter shows why.

After leaving the club by “mutual consent” on Friday — it was first widely reported that he quit — fans protested at Hull’s game on Monday.

[ MORE: Who wins the League of Hate? ]

Bruce may’ve had his problems with Hull’s ownership, but he certainly got his supporters’ feelings right down to the core.

From the Hull Daily Mail:

My biggest regret is having to walk away but it was a decision I had to make for the sake of the club. The last 12 months have been very tough and it felt like the right step for the club to move forward in a different direction and with someone else in charge.

I desperately wanted to make it work this summer and be a Premier League manager again but, sadly, it wasn’t to be. Nevertheless, I’ve left Hull City with some fantastic memories that I’ll always cherish, including just eight weeks ago in the Championship play-off final at Wembley.

Class from the longtime boss, and we imagine he’ll have a job very soon if he wants it.

Report: Everton to activate release clause of Stoke’s Arnautovic

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28: Marko Arnautovic (1st L) of Stoke City competes for the ball against Seamus Coleman (2nd L) and Gareth Barry (1st Rof Everton during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Stoke City at Goodison Park on December 28, 2015 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images)
Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images
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Everton is going to activate Marko Arnautovic‘s $16 million release clause to bring the Stoke City striker to Goodison Park, according to a report out of Austria.

Stoke had been trying to sign Arnautovic to a contract extension, but the player was reportedly prepared to play out the final year of his deal.

[ MORE: Who wins the League of Hate? ]

The huge 27-year-old Austrian has been with Stoke since 2013, and broke through with 11 Premier League goals last season.

Arnautovic would give Everton support behind Romelu Lukaku, and insurance in case the Toffees do wind up selling their Belgian striker. Everton also has Arouna Kone as a potential target forward, but Oumar Niasse is expecting to leave after less than a year at Goodison Park.

Chelsea wins the League… of Hate; Bournemouth, Leicester not hated

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 27:  Diego Costa of Chelsea celebrates his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Chelsea at St Mary's Stadium on February 27, 2016 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
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A family of English newspapers conducted its annual survey of which teams are the most hated in the Premier League, and there’s a new champion.

Manchester United has dropped to second in the table to Chelsea in what the Manchester Evening News called the “League of Hate”.

[ MORE: Rooney’s England position not set ]

According to the MEN, 10,000 fans were quizzed on their love and hate:

A national survey asked fans of each top flight club which sides they hate, and which they love, and the west London club came out as the most disliked club overall.

United, who won the dubious accolade last year, have been revealed to be the next most reviled side.

It’s no surprise that the league’s more successful sides sit atop the table while newer PL clubs like Bournemouth and Burnley are not reviled. That said, Leicester’s dream story has them 19th. How much more success do they need to have before shooting up the hate table?

Here’s the Top Five, and all results:

1) Chelsea
2) Manchester United
3) Liverpool
4) Manchester City
5) Arsenal