Previewing the 2014 World Cup

Published 12:36 pm Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Every four years, global attention is directed toward a handful of cities in a country selected over a decade ahead of time. Monotonous daily routines, dissimilar in each part of the world, are interrupted by a universal spectacle, as each generation in every country is suddenly drawn to their televisions like the little girl from the Poltergeist movies.

The Washington girls’ soccer team injected Beaufort County and the surrounding area with a newfound passion for soccer, perfect timing for the clash that awaits.

Thursday, beginning with Brazil and Croatia on ESPN at 4 p.m., the world’s most beautiful game takes its biggest stage, the 2014 FIFA World Cup, this year in Rio De Janeiro.

The competition seems to be drawing more attention than ever before, a testament to how far the game of soccer has come in the United States as a whole. On the contrary, for the U.S. National Team, this is also one of the toughest draws in recent memory.

Group G, a pool that has come to be known as the infamous “group of death,” features four teams ranked in the top 40 in the world, according to the FIFA World Rankings. For the U.S., undoubtedly the third-best squad in the draw, escaping the group and advancing to the knockout stage is looking like a daunting task on paper. First, the U.S. must take on Ghana, a country that over the last two decades has become the Yanks’ cross-Atlantic rival, eliminating the U.S. from the last two World Cups.

However, this time around, Ghana is ranked No. 37 in the world, lower than in previous years. The game, scheduled for Monday at 6 p.m., is a must-win situation for head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, as Portugal, ranked No. 4 in the world, and Germany, ranked No. 2, are also in the group.

In order for the U.S. to advance, a win against Ghana and, at the very least, a tie against Portugal is a must.

In a rather surprising and shocking turn of events, the U.S. will also take the field without their perennial captain and 2010 World Cup superstar Landon Donovan, the 32-year-old being left off the roster by Klinsmann last month.

The decision has caused an uproar in the “Twitter-sphere” and shifted the American consensus from “we will probably get knocked out in the first round” to “we better make it out of the knockout stage.”

It was a controversial decision to say the least, but striker Jozy Altidore enters Monday’s match up fresh off a two-goal performance in Saturday’s sendoff game against Nigeria. Prior to Saturday, Altidore was in the midst of a horrible goalless streak dating back to November.

Klinsmann is looking for his 24-year-old striker, who is traditionally known to score in steaks, to be a force and primary scoring option up front.

As for the rest of the field, Brazil, the host and general favorite to win it all, is the all-time leader in World Cup titles with five and currently ranked No. 3 in the world. All eyes will be on the dynamic forward and face of Brazilian football, Neymar, to lead the host country to victory.

The U.S., ranked No. 13 in the world, has an opportunity to be an instant catalyst to increase interest in the sport with a successful 2014 World Cup campaign. For the Yanks, their title dreams begin and could end with their first-round match up against Ghana.