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Tough World Cup draw to see U.S. face Germany, Portugal, Ghana

FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke shows name United States next Brazilian presenter FernandLimduring final draw groups for Brazil 2014 FIFA

FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke shows the name of the United States next to Brazilian presenter Fernanda Lima, during the final draw of the groups for the Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup, in Costa do Sauipe, Bahia state, Brazil, on December 6, 2013. AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDANELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images

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Updated: December 6, 2013 3:56PM

COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil — The United States will play Germany, Portugal and Ghana in a tough first-round group at next year’s World Cup in Brazil.

In being thrown into a group at Friday’s live-televised draw with Germany and Ghana, the U.S. will be facing the nations that eliminated the Americans from the last three World Cup tournaments.

“I kind of had in my stomach that we were going to get Germany,” said U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who played for Die Mannschaft’s 1990 World Cup championship team and coached his native country to third place in the 2006 tournament. “Obviously, it’s one of the most difficult groups in the whole draw, having Portugal with Cristiano Ronaldo and then Ghana, who has a history with the United States. It couldn’t get any more difficult or any bigger.

“But that’s what a World Cup is about. It’s a real challenge. And we’ll take it. We’ll take it on, and hopefully we’re going to surprise some people there.”

Germany, which beat the U.S. 1-0 in the 2002 quarterfinal, is coached by Klinsmann’s former assistant, Joachim Loew.

“Obviously, there are a lot of emotions involved. It’s normal. I’m German,” Klinsmann said. “It’s going to be a special moment.”

Ranked 14th in the world, the U.S. has alternated quick exits with advancement since returning to soccer’s showcase in 1990.

Second-ranked Germany and fifth-ranked Portugal are the favorites to advance to the second round. If the U.S. advances, it would face Belgium, Russia, Algeria or South Korea in the second round.

The United States team will feel pressure to open with a win against Ghana, which is ranked 24th. The Black Stars defeated the Americans 2-1 in the group stage in 2006 and by the same score in overtime in the round of 16 at the last World Cup.

“After the two losses, it’s about time to beat them, I guess,” Klinsmann said.

At the 2002 tournament, the U.S. opened with a 3-2 upset of Portugal after taking a shocking three-goal lead in the first 36 minutes.

“Difficult draw, but a group the U.S. can get through if they play well,” said former U.S. coach Bruce Arena, who now manages the Los Angeles Galaxy.

The Americans will be based in Sao Paulo and face trips of 1,436 miles to Natal, 1,832 miles to Manaus and 1,321 miles to Recife.

“There will be some problems from the organizational side, traveling side, ad we hit the worst of the worst,” Klinsmann said. “Every coach that I talked to, at least today, said everything but Manaus. No — we get Manaus.”

U.S. rival Mexico — which had to win a playoff to make the World Cup — was drawn into a potentially less tough first-round group, facing host Brazil, Croatia and Cameroon.

Friday’s draw also put three former winners — Italy, Uruguay and England — together in one daunting group.

It also pitted the teams that played in one of the worst finals in World Cup history — Spain vs. the Netherlands — together for one of the first games of the 2014 edition.

Colombia — which will have one of the tournament’s potential stars in striker Radamel Falcao — got one of the weakest groups with Greece, the Ivory Coast and Japan.

The only first-timer to the World Cup among the 32 teams will be Bosnia-Herzegovina, which will face two-time champ Argentina in its firstmatch.

Here the other groups, beside the U.S. group:

Group A — Brazil, Cameroon, Croatia, Mexico;

Group B — Australia, Chile, Netherlands, Spain;

Group C — Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan;

Group D — Costa Rica, England, Italy, Uruguay;

Group E — Ecuador, France, Honduras, Switzerland;

Group F — Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria;

Group H — Algeria, Belgium, Russia, South Korea.

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