Friday's World Cup Draw in Brazil threw up several groups that are just as tough as predicted, producing major challenges - and showpiece games - for the United States and for Red Bulls players Tim Cahill with Australia and Roy Miller with Costa Rica.
The United States, of course, was drawn into Group G, where Jurgen Klinsmann's squad will face an extremely difficult travel schedule and games against recent nemesis Ghana, perennial contender Germany, and Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portugal. The U.S. has faced all four teams at least once in the last three World Cups, beating Portugal in 2002, losing to Germany in 2002, and losing to Ghana in 2006 and 2010.
Australia, competing in its third consecutive World Cup after a 32-year drought between 1974 and 2006, reached the Round of 16 in 2006 but was eliminated in the group stage four years ago. The Socceroos were drawn into Group B, another difficult foursome. Cahill's squad face reigning World Cup and European champion Spain, 2010 World Cup runner-up Netherlands, and Chile, which reached the quarterfinals four years ago. Australia has gone 1-1-1 in group play in each of the last two tournaments, advancing in 2006 and finishing third in the group on goal difference in 2010.
Costa Rica faces three former champions in Group D: four-time winner Italy, 1966 titlist England, and Urugay, champion in 1930 and 1950. Miller's squad finished third in its group on goal differential with a 1-1-1 record in 2002 and went 0-3 in 2006.