- Martin Rogers at Yahoo Sports23 hrs ago
The World Cup draw is often greeted with even more anticipation than the tournament itself – and Friday showed exactly why.
Between Groups of Death, Groups of Life, intriguing matchups and even a head-to-head showdown between the 2010 finalists, the draw had pretty much everything. For some teams, the balls fell kindly and the dream of a deep World Cup is still very much in play. For others, the reality of seeing their hopes already on life support is slowly kicking in.
Here we take a look at each group and embark upon the foolhardy process of trying to pick a winner for a tournament that is still more than six months away.
GROUP A (4th toughest) Predicted finishing order: 1. Brazil 2. Croatia 3. Mexico 4 Cameroon
The host nation will be quite happy with itself and should have no trouble in negotiating a path through in first place. Croatia emerged from the UEFA playoffs but was far from convincing, Cameroon has struggled for the past year and well, we know all about Mexico's trials and tribulations just to get here. Don't expect much drama, just enjoy the show.
GROUP B (Toughest) Predicted finishing order: 1. Spain 2. Netherlands 3. Chile 4. Australia
- Martin Rogers at Yahoo Sports1 day ago
Not content with sticking the United States into one of the World Cup's Groups of Death on Friday, the soccer gods also sent the national team to the one Brazilian location that everyone wanted to avoid.
The city of Manaus, on the cusp of the Amazon jungle, is a fascinating and picturesque place, but its unique climatology is such that Jurgen Klinsmann and every other coach in the tournament was hoping to steer clear of it.
However, luck was about as unkind to the Americans as feasibly possible at Friday's World Cup draw, and sure enough, a four-hour flight from the team's base in Sao Paulo and conditions of oppressive humidity will duly beckon.
After taking on Ghana to begin its campaign in Natal on June 16, the U.S. must face a Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portuguese team in Manaus' 44,500-capacity Arena de Amazonia six days later. Then, on June 26, the Americans face Germany, the toughest team in the group, with little chance for recuperation.
"Manaus is the place ideally to avoid," said England manager Roy Hodgson before the draw. "It will be a difficult venue for everyone, but for northern European players it will be a little bit harder."
- Martin Rogers at Yahoo Sports1 day ago
United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann described his team's World Cup draw as "the worst of the worst" after it was pooled with Germany, Portugal and Ghana in one of two "Groups of Death."
Klinsmann could scarcely believe his ill fortune after the draw was made in Bahia, Brazil, with the Americans lumped into Group G and a situation that immediately installed them as long shots to reach the last 16.
To add to his discomfort, Klinsmann's side also will have to battle a grueling travel schedule, including a visit to the Amazonian jungle city of Manaus with its extreme humidity and hostile weather environment.
"It is one of the most difficult groups of the whole draw," Klinsmann said. "It couldn't get any more difficult or any bigger but that is what the World Cup is all about.
"We are looking forward to the challenge and we don't see ourselves as any kind of outsiders. If you want to get into the top 10 or 12 teams in the world you have to beat these guys.
- Yahoo Sports2 days ago
The United States heads into Friday's World Cup draw in desperate need of just one thing.
A near-perfect qualifying campaign, two-and-a-half years of solid progress under head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and an unprecedented level of optimism leading into next summer could all count for nothing unless the U.S. men's national team is smiled upon by soccer's gods of fortune.
A dream draw against some of the weaker opponents – which is possible under FIFA's system of separating the 32 finalists into eight groups of four – would fill Klinsmann and his team with hope ahead of Brazil 2014 and perpetuate the belief that America's round-of-16 finish four years ago in South Africa can be matched or even bettered.
However, there is also a legitimate chance of the U.S. being pooled into a group so fiendishly difficult that progressing into the tournament's knockout stage would be highly improbable.
Klinsmann is a man who prepares meticulously. Stepping into a situation where being lucky could be far more valuable than being good clearly makes him uneasy.
- Martin Rogers at Yahoo Sports2 days ago
The unfortunate teams who are stuck in the infamous and inevitable Group of Death when the 2014 FIFA World Cup draw is held Friday may have just one sliver of consolation to make them feel better.
They won't be alone.
A combination of FIFA's draw format, combined with the reality that no major soccer power stumbled in qualifying, means that this time around there could easily be more than one group that is worthy of the gruesome and now iconic title that guarantees its share of heartbreak.
That's why Brazil 2014 can make a legitimate claim to being the strongest World Cup field in history. The interminable qualification process, which begins three years ahead of the actual tournament and stretches over more than 800 games and six continents, typically features a sprinkling of shocks, but there were only minor surprises with the absence of European nations Ukraine, Sweden, Denmark and Serbia. None of them will be particularly missed outside their homeland, but the World Cup would have welcomed the thrilling individuals talents of Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahomovic.
- Martin Rogers at Yahoo Sports3 days ago
Not even its biggest fan would suggest Major League Soccer's playing level is close to the Premier League in England or La Liga in Spain.
However, as this year's season concludes with Saturday's championship game between Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake, MLS boasts one peculiarity that many of the world's biggest leagues can only envy.
This season, parity in MLS reached an extraordinary level. Sporting K.C. and RSL both finished second in their respective conferences, but there was little to choose between a swathe of teams on both sides of the country.
The New York Red Bulls won the Supporters' Shield, which is awarded to the top finisher in the regular season, but the team's tally of 59 points was just one ahead of Sporting K.C. In the West, the conference's top two of the Portland Timbers (57) and RSL (56) were just a shade behind. In all, the top 13 of the 19 teams in MLS were separated by just 11 points at the end of a season that spanned 34 games each and began back in March.
- Martin Rogers at Yahoo Sports5 days ago
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – There was a reason that none of Knowshon Moreno's Denver Broncos teammates came to check on his well-being as the star running back stood weeping on the sideline on Sunday afternoon.
They have seen it all before.
While Moreno's flood of tears during the national anthem sparked a social media frenzy after being captured by a CBS cameraman before the Broncos' crucial 35-28 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, it was no shock to his colleagues. It is a common occurrence in the Broncos' camp, be it at practice, on the way to games or in the locker room.
"The emotion always gets to me," Moreno told Yahoo Sports after the Broncos moved to 10-2 to retain command of the AFC West and move clear of the Chiefs (9-3), who have dropped three straight.
"I am just thinking about everything in general through your whole life, just balled up into one. Yeah, it helps me. Sometimes I don't even notice it, it just comes."
- Martin Rogers at Yahoo Sports8 days ago
Cristiano Ronaldo has booked his place at the World Cup, is likely just weeks away from being named the world's best soccer player, has signed a new contract at Real Madrid and is talking about staying there for the rest of his career.
Given the Portuguese superstar's sensational form and apparently high level of contentment, now would seem to be the worst possible time for any potential suitor to even think about attempting to pry him away from Madrid, his home for the past four years.
Yet rumors linking the 28-year-old with a return to his former club Manchester United persist with surprising regularity, and they show no sign of slowing down whatever Ronaldo, or his advisors, might say in public.
And inconceivable as it might seem that Madrid would ever consider letting go of their most important player, this is a blockbuster move that does have a chance of taking place in the not-too-distant future.
- Martin Rogers at Yahoo Sports8 days ago
That gimpy ankle is still banged up, the snarky cold weather criticism still rings in his ears and his support crew is ravaged by injuries. Still, Peyton Manning sees nothing but opportunity as he heads into what could be the Denver Broncos' biggest game of the season on Sunday.
The 9-2 Broncos could have used some positive vibes after coming off Sunday's dispiriting surrender of a 24-point lead in a 34-31 overtime loss to the New England Patriots. Instead, their preparations for an AFC West showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs at a raucous Arrowhead Stadium have been hamstrung by a series of key injuries, including primary running back Knowshon Moreno (ankle) and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (shoulder).
Manning says the collection of setbacks can have a bolstering effect on a team that remains Las Vegas' favorite to win it all.
"How do we respond?" Manning said to reporters this week. "That is the challenge you want, how do we respond coming off last week's game?"
- Martin Rogers at Yahoo Sports12 days ago
Russian athletes who taste success at the Winter Olympics at Sochi in February will be rewarded with huge cash bonuses as the host nation bids to knock the United States off the top of the medal table.
Handouts from the Kremlin were announced on Monday, with President Vladimir Putin authorizing payments that will see Russian gold medalists rewarded with four million rubles ($122,000) each, with silver medals worth $76,000 and bronze $46,000. According to the OECD Better Life Index, the average Russian worker makes $15,286 per year.
Information relating to the medal payments was posted on the Russian government website and is aimed at improving the medal haul of the team, which brought back only 15 medals, three of them gold, from the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. The U.S. topped the medal count with 37, while Canada had the most golds with 14.
Such payments, first instituted in the 1990s following the break-up of the Soviet Union, were originally designed to help athletes who were often surviving on small state subsidies.