The United States drew a daunting task for next year’s FIFA World Cup: difficult opponents, tropical venues and a wearying 9,000-mile zigzag journey across Brazil. The Americans and coach Jurgen Klinsmann (pictured) wound up with the potentially punishing group they feared and will play Ghana, Portugal and Germany next June as they try to achieve a U.S. first: reaching the knockout phase twice in a row. While Ghana eliminated the Americans in 2006 and 2010, the Black Stars won’t do it again. The U.S. opens its seventh straight World Cup appearance against Ghana on June 16 at Natal. The U.S. meets Portugal and favorite for 2013 FIFA Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo six days later in the Amazon rain forest city Manaus. The Americans have just three off days to recover before closing Group G on June 26 in Recife against three-time champion Germany. – AP
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