Once again the ping pong balls did not fall kindly for the United States Men’s National Team with the Americans drawing Colombia, Costa Rica, and Paraguay as opponents for this summer’s Copa America Centenario.
Many are calling this the Copa’s “Group of Death” bringing to mind the 2014 World Cup, at which we should remember the U.S. emerged from a Group play despite being matched up against Ghana, Portugal, and Germany.
The U.S. survived that group, advancing to the knockout stages, as U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann was quick to point out at last night’s draw at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom.
“That’s the objective,” Klinsmann said. “It’s clearly getting out of the group, even if that’s not easy. And then we’re going to go, and that’s what we said after the experience in Brazil, we have to learn how to win knockout games. No better way to start than in a Copa América.”
Klinsmann was widely, if not unanimously, praised for his team’s performance in Brazil but with the failures of 2015 fresh in the mind of the U.S. soccer public, the Coach and Technical Director could use a good performance from his side in this expanded South American Championships.
As hosts of the 100th Anniversary edition of the Copa America, the U.S. will open the tournament versus Colombia on Friday, June 3 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
The Americans will then move on to Chicago to face CONCACAF rivals Costa Rica on June 7, before closing out the group in Philadelphia where they will take on Paraguay on June 11.
The top two teams in each group will advance to the quarterfinals and while the rest of the groups appear somewhat easier than Group A, the Group of Death label seems a bit of an oversell.
Up first Colombia is a legitimate force and led by Real Madrid’s James Rodriguez the Cafeteros figure to be a tough opening act for Klinsmann’s crew.
After winning all three group stage matches in Brazil, Colombia advanced to the World Cup quarterfinals with a 2-0 win over Uruguay, where they lost 2-1 to the home team.
Like the U.S. however, 2015 was not as successful for Colombia, who bowed out of the 2015 Copa America with one win, one loss, and two ties.
Costa Rica also impressed at the 2014 World Cup, advancing to the quarterfinals in Brazil where they went out on pk’s to the Netherlands. Costa Rica is certainly on the rise in CONCACAF but the U.S. has played the Tico’s countless times over the years and it would be disappointing in the extreme to think the U.S. would be intimidated by their longtime rivals.
Last up for the U.S. will be Paraguay, a solid South American side, but a team the U.S. should be able to compete with on level terms.
Advancing out of Group A won’t be easy, but as Klinsmann said at the draw, “it’s doable. We had a similar kind of scenario in Brazil, and we went through,” Klinsmann said. “First or second with that group is both tremendously fine.”
Group A: United States (A1), Colombia (A2), Costa Rica (A3), Paraguay (A4)
Group B: Brazil (B1), Ecuador (B2), Haiti (B3), Peru (B4)
Group C: Mexico (C1), Uruguay (C2), Jamaica (C3), Venezuela (C4)
Group D: Argentina (D1), Chile (D2), Panama (D3), Bolivia (D4)