In quite possibly the most anticipated opening round game in World Cup history, the US takes on England in a battle that can be traced back almost 250 years. Just like back then, the US are the underdogs….just the way they like it.
Back in December, FIFA held it’s World Cup draw, live on TV with much pop and circumstance. Important/famous people like David Beckham and Charlize Theron, selected the ping-pong balls in which would determine what teams would join the 8 groups headed by the top 7 ranked teams in the world (S. Africa was the 8th seed due to being the host nation). When it was England’s turn to find out who the first team to join them in Group C was, there was one team, and one team only, that they were praying was not going to be called. “USA” was said. ESPN cut quickly to a live video feed it had at famous soccer bar, Nevada Smith’s, in Manhattan. You would have thought that the US had WON the World Cup. The place went crazy. David Bechkam almost crapped himself on stage.
Sixty years ago, the United States stunned England in the World Cup in one of the most storied upsets in sports history. A win in South Africa might not prove to be as legendary, but could be more significant.
England has been the Boston Red Sox of international soccer. Think of the post-Babe Ruth untill 2006 era. In that time, the Red Sox had so many good teams, but never won a championship. Same thing with England. Every 4 years, they get hyped up so much as having a great team, but fall short. The tabloids and newspapers in Britain are England’s biggest fans and biggest haters. There is so much pressure on England to beat the US that it’s almost impossible to believe.
Team USA is no slouch. Let’s be honest. The Red, White and Blue are ranked 14th by FIFA and England 8th. Sure, the US doesn’t have the big name players that England has (Wayne Rooney, Joe and Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard to name a few), but the US is a very good defensive team. Tim Howard is the US goalkeeper who has been playing in the English Premier League for about 7 years who is respected as one of the top goalkeepers in the league. Clint Dempsy is perhaps the US’s most creative and exciting player. He’s played for Fulham of the Premier League and is loved in England. Then there’s Landon Donovon. Ahhhh Landon. The best player for the US has been the subject of much ridicule over the past few years for the dud he laid 4 years ago. He’s the all time leading scorer for the US with 42 international goals. So he is going to be heavily relied upon to put the ball into the net.
We’re about an hour and a half from kickoff and I can honestly say that I am pumped up for a soccer game. Many of the analysts today are calling for a 1-1 draw or a USA win. Former USA Defender Alexi Lalas, just said that he feels as if the England squad is “ripe for the picking”. Obviously he’s a homer, but he said that England has too many good players and just haven’t shown the chemistry as a group. I hope he’s right, because if he is, look for Jozy Altidore to put the ball in the net for the US. He’s the 20-year-old striker that has been hot in qualifying.
Game time is approaching. I gotta go get my vuvuzela ready….