FIFA World Cup draw: USMNT in tough group, will face Ghana first

By Evan Hilbert | CBSSports.com

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The festivities have begun in Brazil.

If the favorites are to move through, the elimination round will have Brazil, Colombia, Switzerland, and Germany on one side, and Spain, Uruguay, Argentina, and Belgium on the other.

Brazil, of course, will land in Group A. The second team chosen in that group will have the unenviable task of facing Brazil in the opener, then traveling to Manaus for its second game a time zone away -- a trip USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann hopes to avoid.

And avoid that they did, but the Americans cannot escape Ghana. The USMNT will again play Ghana -- the sides faced off in 2006 and 2010 -- this time in both teams' opener in Group G. Along with them in the group will be Germany and Portugal. No easy group by any means.

But the travel gods aren't completely on the Americans' side.

Croatia, on the other hand, will be the unlucky side to open against the Brazilians. Another draw of note: Spain, the defending champions, will open against the Netherlands, the team they beat in the finals of the 2010 World Cup.

Both Brazil and Argentina received favorable draws, and should move through easily.

The Americans, however, will be an underdog to reach the elimination round. If they are able to get through, though, they'll face either the winner or runner-up in Group H, which is made up of Belgium, Algeria, Russia, and South Korea.

And, in the interest of updating your calender seven months in advance, the USMNT will play Ghana Monday, June 16 at 6 p.m. ET, Portugal Sunday, June 22 at 3 p.m. ET, and Germany Thursday, June 26 at noon ET. Take off work.

Pre-draw

Here's FIFA president Sepp Blatter -- the man knows how to make an entrance.

"It was time for the World Cup to come back to Brazil," Blatter said before the draw. "It is good to come back. I call all the fans in Brazil and in the world to join us for a great party which will be the World Cup."

Brazilian legend Pele, too, showed up.

Michael Bradley doesn't seem terribly concerned.

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