This time, second-ranked Germany and fifth-ranked Portugal are the favorites to advance to the second round. If the U.S. reaches the round of 16, it would face Belgium, Russia, Algeria or South Korea from Group H.
“I guarantee you Jurgen knows more about Germany than Jogi Loew knows about the U.S,” U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said.
As for the rest of the field, Brazil, Cameroon, Croatia, Mexico were put in Group A; Australia, Chile, Netherlands and Spain in Group B; Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan in Group C; Costa Rica, England, Italy and Uruguay in Group D; Ecuador, France, Honduras and Switzerland in Group E; and Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria in Group F.
The U.S. will feel pressure to open with a win against 24th-ranked Ghana. The Black Stars defeated the Americans 2-1 in the 2006 group stage and by the same score in overtime in the round of 16 at the last World Cup in South Africa.
“They’re the team that beat us, kind of crushed our dreams of being in the World Cup, so I think we’re due a little bit of luck and we’re due a win against them,” Dempsey 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.
The Americans will train at home from mid-May until early June and plan a series of exhibition games, which likely will include England as an opponent, before heading to Brazil.
“Everybody is saying that this is the ‘Group of Death’ and it’s such a hard challenge,” former American captain John Harkes said. “I still think that the U.S. can rise to the occasion.”
AP Sports Writers Tales Azzoni in Costa do Sauipe, Brazil, and Dave Skretta in Kansas City, Kan., contributed to this report.