The USA soccer schedule introduced one curious team to the masses, the ‘group of death’. It specifically refers to the amount of talent far outweighing the positions available to advance – there is little hope for some top talent by the very nature of competition.
Group of death is a term that resonates among fans. That phrase certainly was tossed around frequently before US matches, which had me wondering … where did it originate?
Doing a little research reveals the actual term originated from Mexican journalists during the 1970 World Cup. The foreboding title was applied to Group 3, featuring reigning champions England, favorite and eventual champs Brazil, 1962 runners-up Czechoslovakia and Romania.
Pitted against tournament favorites Germany, the always dangerous Portugal, and old nemesis in Ghana, the American squad was already written off before they even set foot on the World Cup pitch. The definition is abundantly clear – the odds of succeeding here were considered insurmountable. So how did we get placed in the 2014 World Cup group of death?
Drawing the group of death in soccer is all about qualifying rounds. Matches that are generally glossed over during the down periods of the World Cup take precedence here – everything is adding up to something. The United States team performed admirably during qualifying matches but never defied expectations, hence our draw.
The group of death label did not simply apply to US Mens Soccer – although ranked lower than their competitors, their presence here contributed every bit as much to the danger of the group. The American squad has built a reputation for playing up to their competition, no one was looking forward to competing against us.
The term ‘group of death’ is hardly isolated to the soccer world. It’s similarly applied in global basketball tournaments and NCAA, rugby unions, cricket and ice hockey. All of these instances generally require a multi-stage tournament.