How far can the USMNT advance in the World Cup?
The question that’s on everyone’s minds: How far can the United States national team advance in the 2014 FIFA World Cup?
Apart from one fantastic Cristiano Ronaldo cross and a last minute header from Portugal, the World Cup has been everything head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his U.S. squad could’ve hoped for. The team is 1-0-1 and tied for first with four points in Group G aka the group of death.
As the final group play match approaches, Klinsmann has the team in a position to control their own destiny. A win or draw versus Germany sees the U.S. advance, while a loss would mean the U.S. needs help to move on.
Advancing to the round of 16 would be a huge success but would also considerably test the U.S. Matchups become a huge part of advancing.
Group G is matched up with Group H for the round of 16 as the first team in G matches up with the second team in H and the first team in H matches up with the second team in G.
The likely top team in Group H is Belgium and the likely second team is Algeria. In short, the U.S. will get a favorable round of 16 matchup regardless if they get first or second in their group.
Barring an unforeseen injury or miraculous play, beating one of those two teams should be fairly straightforward for the U.S. It’s the quarterfinals round that gets tricky.
Depending on their seeding and barring an upset, the quarterfinals could see the U.S. matched up against France or Argentina.
France isn’t as talented as Argentina, and luckily for the U.S., is missing its top player in Franck Ribery.
However, the U.S. has struggled to contain talented strikers and France certainly has one in Karim Benzema. The Real Madrid star can put on a show if he’s in form and would give the back four of U.S. fits.
Luckily for Klinsmann, his team has already faced a fantastic goal scorer in Ronaldo and could use similar defensive tactics against Benzema.
On the other hand, Argentina is a much tougher, yet somewhat unbalanced, opponent and one of the favorites to win the World Cup.
Offensively, Argentina is fantastic. Lionel Messi leads the way with Sergio Agüero and Ángel Di María lending their talents.
The U.S. back four of DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron and Fabian Johnson have not yet, and likely will not again, face an attack as talented as what Argentina can bring forward.
The way I see it, the U.S. will lose if matched up with Argentina in the quarterfinals and has a better chance beating France.
With the injury to Jozy Altidore likely holding out the forward until the quarterfinals, the U.S. will have trouble scoring a high number of goals. That puts a premium on the aforementioned back four of the U.S. defense.
Will the stellar defense against Ghana show up? Or will the shaky and often confused defense against Portugal show up? The upcoming game against Germany should provide plenty of answers as to what kind of team the U.S. is.
For me, it’s simple really: the U.S. will go as far as its defense takes it.
—Follow Roberto Payne @HouseofPayne555