December 16, 2005

USA Drawn into Group E with Italy, Czech Republic and Ghana for 2006 World Cup

The U.S. Men’s National Team has been drawn into Group E with Italy, Ghana and the Czech Republic in the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. The Final Draw took place December 9 at the Congress Center Leipzig in Leipzig, Germany.

The U.S. will open Group E play against Czech Republic on June 12 in Gelsenkirchen, and will follow that game with matches against three-time World Cup Champions Italy (1934, ’38, ‘82) on June 17 in Kaiserslautern and against Ghana on June 22 in Nuremberg.

“I’m pleased now that we know our opponents and now we can prepare,” said U.S. Manager Bruce Arena. “Obviously, it’s a group with some very good teams including the second best team in the world (Czech Republic). Italy, in everyone’s opinion, is a top 10 team in the world, and Ghana is an excellent newcomer to the World Cup. We have our hands full, but we really look forward to the competition.”

The U.S. was drawn into one of the toughest groups of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Group E is the only group with three teams in the top 12 in the World FIFA Rankings, with the Czech Republic (ranked second), the U.S. (eighth), Italy (12) and Ghana (50). The U.S. has never beaten any of the three teams it will face in group play (having never faced Ghana), holding a combined lifetime record of 0-4-2.

This will be the second time the U.S. will face the Czech Republic (formerly Czechoslovakia) and Italy in group play of a World Cup as the three teams, along with Austria, were drawn into Group A of the 1990 World Cup in Italy. The match order in the group is the same as well, with the U.S. facing the Czech Republic first and Italy second. The U.S. qualified for the 1990 World Cup after a 40-year absence and lost all three matches, but has since made five straight World Cup appearances.

“I went to the tournament in Italy in 1990,” said Arena. “It will be interesting to see how far we’ve progressed in 16 years.”

In their opening match, the U.S. will have to contend with one of the best teams in the world in the Czech Republic, which played their first game as a new nation in 1998. The only meeting between the two countries came in the 1990 World Cup, a 5-1 victory for Czechoslovakia on June 10 in Florence, Italy. Despite their high ranking, the Czech Republic had to win a playoff against Norway (2-0) to advance to the World Cup after coming in second in their UEFA qualifying group behind the Netherlands.

This will be the third time the U.S. will face Italy in the World Cup as the two countries met in 1934 and 1990. Both matches were played in Rome, Italy, with the U.S. falling 7-1 in 1934 and 1-0 in 1990. In Germany, the matchup will take place in Kaiserslautern which, despite being by far the smallest of the 12 German venues, holds the largest U.S. military base outside the United States, housing some 40,000 American troops. In their history, the U.S. holds a 0-3-2 record against the Italians, who advanced to the 2006 World Cup by winning Group 5 in UEFA qualifying.

The USA’s final group match against Ghana will be their first meeting against the African nation. Ghana qualified for their first-ever World Cup when they finished atop Group 2 in CAF, but have been considered a team on the rise, twice finishing second at the FIFA World Youth Championships (1993 & 2001), and winning two U-17 World Youth Championships (1991 & 1995).

Should the U.S. advance to the second round, the U.S. would meet a team from Group F (Brazil, Croatia, Australia and Japan) in either Kaiserslautern (June 26) or Dortmund (June 27).

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