The U.S. men's national team's first World Cup group match is nearly upon us. The friendlies are in the books, with the U.S. getting a nice boost after a 2-1 win over Nigeria in their final tune-up.
The U.S. embark on a treacherous group stage starting Monday, June 16, against familiar foes Ghana.
While the U.S. won three straight World Cup send-offs (2-0 over Azerbaijan, 2-1 over Turkey and the win over Nigeria), things will be far more competitive once they line up against the Black Stars in Natal.
Ghana have dispatched the U.S. in the past two World Cups: In 2010, they eliminated the U.S. directly after a 2-1 extra-time victory in the round of 16, while in 2006, the U.S. lost their final group game to Ghana (also 2-1), allowing the Black Stars and Italy to go through to the knockout stage.
Germany and Portugal also lay in wait for the in-form U.S in Group G.
In the current FIFA rankings, the U.S. sit at 13th; Ghana come in at 37, with the formidable Portuguese at No. 4 and Germany at No. 2.
Some key injuries for Germany and Portugal could have an impact on Group G:
The stage is set. It's a group that forces the U.S. to face their World Cup mortality from the opening whistle.
Let's chart a course for the Yanks as they prepare for Ghana, Portugal and Germany.