The 2022 FIFA World Cup draw was held Friday afternoon. It seemed to be a much bigger deal this time around, as it aired live on television and streamed online. Maybe that’s because the United States Men’s National Team qualified for the World Cup this time. They failed to qualify in 2018, which some people believe set back U.S. soccer. It certainly did not help propel Christian Pulisic as a world class player.
Nevertheless, fans around the world are always excited for this day. After the draw, U.S. fans should be even more excited than they were coming into the day. The United States were drawn into Group B, alongside England, Iran and the European playoff winner. That is a 3-squad playoff between Wales, Scotland and Ukraine.
With everything happening in Ukraine right now, it’s not yet known how this country will be able to play. FIFA recently suspended Ukraine’s match against Scotland. The winner of that match will then play Wales for the right to play the United States in the opening match.
So, I am going to detail the three reasons why the United States received the best-case scenario for reaching the quarterfinals of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
3 Reasons Why Team USA Got Best-Case Scenario to Reach 2022 FIFA World Cup Quarterfinals
1. USA Can Win This Group
To begin with, I need to point your focus to what this article is about specifically. I am not claiming this is the best case scenario to win their group. Nor am I stating it’s the best case scenario for even getting out of the group. It certainly could have been easier, but also could have been much, much harder. But I am stating that this path to a quarterfinal berth is there for the U.S. That begins with their ability to win their group.
The USMNT were viewed as a team in the lower tier of Pod 2 squads. They easily could have drawn Spain, or Brazil, or Belgium or France as their Pod 1 team in their group. But they didn’t. They drew England. I know England reached the semi-final in the 2018 World Cup, and the 2020 Euro Finals (on home soil). But England has a reputation for massively underperforming in the World Cup.
The USMNT are also very familiar with England. Familiarity with your opponent is very beneficial. The last time we shared a group with England, we defeated them.
— Tom Bellingham (@TommyWTF1) April 1, 2022
The only other time the U.S. faced England in the World Cup was in 1950. That was also a win for the USMNT, 1-0. So, the top-tier team the U.S. drew might have been the best possible outcome.
Beyond that, there are some good teams. Iran is ranked by FIFA as the 21st best team in the World Cup. Wales is a deep team, Scotland has Gareth Bale and Ukraine would have the whole world rooting for them. But whoever comes from that playoff would be a beatable opponent.
Iran also presents an opportunity for the United States to right a wrong. The U.S. loss to Iran in the 1998 World Cup, which is considered one of the biggest failures in USMNT history.
Again, it’s not the best possible group, but it is closer to best-case than worst-case.
2. Group B Teams Have Bigger Fish to Fry
Another aspect that helps the United States chances of getting out of the group is which playoff-group was drawn with them. Ukraine obviously is embroiled in things much bigger than soccer. But more importantly, both Wales and Scotland are frothing at the mouth at the chance to play against England.
England has lorded over them historically, on the pitch and physically on the ground. I cannot imagine those matches not being circled on their calendars. It will be harder than normal for any of these playoff teams to focus on the U.S.
The U.S. might have also dodged a bullet when Iran was drawn into Group A. Because Qatar was already in that group, Iran was moved to Group B with the U.S. Otherwise, Senegal would have been placed in Group B. Personally, I believe Senegal is more dangerous and has had better success at the World Cup.
Iran go to the group B
• Group B
1️⃣ ⟩ 🏴 — England
2️⃣ ⟩ 🇮🇷 — Iran
3️⃣ ⟩ 🇺🇲 — USA
4️⃣ ⟩ #WorldCupDraw 🇶🇦
— Barça Worldwide (@BarcaWorldwide) April 1, 2022
3. Group B Goes Against Group A in Knockout Stage
As I mentioned above, this article is about reaching the quarterfinal, not just the knockout stage.
I’ve already discussed why I like the U.S. men’s team to get out of their group. If that does indeed happen, they will face one of the teams from Group A.
Group A consists of host nation Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal and the Netherlands.
If the U.S. wins their group in the World Cup, they will play the second placed team from Group A. If they finish second, they will play the winner of Group A. Either way, they do not play a juggernaut and have a chance at advancing.
Host nations typically do well in getting out of the group stage. I do not believe that would be the case this year, but would not be shocked. Senegal is no pushover, as the most successful African nation in World Cup history. But they are beatable. The Netherlands is obviously the best team in the group, but they are not nearly as good as they were a couple World Cups ago.
The fact that England might be the best team the United States has to play in order to reach a quarterfinal is amazing. This team is young but talented. I’m not saying they will reach the quarterfinals, but the path is there.