USA’s World Cup opponents: What to expect from Germany, Portugal and Ghana

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We all knew this World Cup was going to be difficult, but the U.S. have certainly been handed a tough task to make the last 16. Drawn in Group G alongside European powerhouses Germany and Portugal and another meeting with old foes Ghana, Jurgen Klinsmann’s side couldn’t have got a tougher draw as they’re entrenched in a dreaded “Group of Death.”

(MORE: 2014 World Cup Draw – USA in Group of Death with Germany, Portugal, Ghana – Schedule, times, venues)

It’s not all doom and gloom, as the USA face Ghana in their opening game before battling it out with Germany and Portugal, both of whom are ranked in the worlds top five… Wowzer. Let’s take a quick gander at the three teams the USA face in the Group G and what we can look forward to next summer.

GERMANY (FIFA WORLD RANKING – #2) Klinsmann will face his home nation in the final group stage game, you just knew it would turn out likes this? Klinsmann’s former assistant for the German national team, Joachim Low, has taken the side to greater heights since the the U.S. coach left and the German national team are now stacked with some of the most exciting young talent in world soccer. Low has the likes of Mesut Ozil, Marco Reus, Mario Gotze, Lukas Podolski, Andre Schurrle and Thomas Muller amongst a whole host of other to choose from… and that’s just his attacking midfield spot. Germany are one of the favorites and although the USA beat the three-time World Cup winners in a friendly in Washington D.C. last summer, that was a weakened German side. At full strength and with all their players on form, Germany may be the favorites for this summers tournament. They’ve made the semifinals in the past three World Cups as USMNT head coach Klinsmann helped reignite the country’s hopes. Is he the man to dash them at Brazil 2014? Key Players: Mesut Ozil, Philip Lahm, Manuel Neuer

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Ronaldo will spearhead a talented Portuguese team. Can the U.S. defense stop him?

PORTUGAL (FIFA WORLD RANKING – #5) They had to go through the European playoffs to make the World Cup, but make no mistake about it, Portugal will be one of the favorites to lift the trophy in Brazil. Spearheaded by Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese swept aside Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Sweden in style as the Real Madrid star scored four goals over the two legs. Former Portugal defender Paulo Bento is the manager and his side are stacked with experienced players and stars such as Joao Moutinho, Nani, Helder Postiga and many more, on their day Portugal are one of the worlds best teams. One man will cause the USMNT problems: Ronaldo. If Klinsmann’s defense can somehow keep the man many expect to be named World Player of the Year quite, they’ll have a chance. Key Players: Cristiano Ronaldo, Joao Moutinho, Helder Postiga

GHANA (FIFA WORLD RANKING – #24)

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Can the Black Stars knock the USA out of a World Cup once again?

Ah, you again! The U.S. know Ghana only too well, as the African nation sent home Bob Bradley’s men from the last World Cup in South Africa in 2010 and beat the USA in the group stages of 2006 with the same 2-1 scoreline. That last 16 defeat over three years ago still rattles many cages of U.S. fans and plenty of national team supporters wanted another pop at the “Black Stars” to put things right. Well, now you have it. Coached by Ghanian James Appiah, they are solid and dependable and absolutely obliterated Bob Bradley’s Egypt in the finally qualifying round to make the World Cup. Their main striker Asomah Gyan has spent time in the Premier League and was a star in the last World Cup when Ghana were just a penalty kick away from being the first African side to make it to the semifinals. Expect a well-organized unit full of pace and skill on the wings. Revenge would be sweet, if they can deliver, against Ghana. Key Players: Asamoah Gyan, Sulley Muntari, Harrison Afful

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.