Psychology is not to be underestimated when it comes to sport, especially the World Cup and soccer. In this summer’s clash of the giants between the United States and England, I believe the game will not come down to who is the better team on the day, but will instead focus on which team is more psychologically prepared to overcome its opponent. And for that reason, I predict the United States will defeat England.
The World Cup game between England and the United States on June 12 in Rustenburg means more to the USA than it does to England. Yes, England desperately wants to beat the United States and will be doing everything it can to impress manager Fabio Capello as well as to win it for themselves and their country. But the game for U.S. players and fans takes on an even greater importance. The United States will be going into this game as if they’re playing a World Cup Final. It’s that important. U.S. soccer fans and players know the message a win would send to the rest of the world. And it would be a perfect opportunity to do it against a country which has long criticized and laughed at US soccer, its players and specatators. If U.S. players ever wanted to put soccer on the map in the United States, they know that this is their biggest chance in decades.
For England, all of the pressure is on them. The team is expected to win and win convincingly. I find it patronizing that a lot of the English pundits and celebrities (such as Terry Venables and Noel Gallagher, just to name two of many) warn that the United States should not be underestimated. But, at the same time, they slap U.S. soccer in the face by saying how fit the team is. That’s like saying Gallagher has a good voice but can’t sing. Many of the British talking heads only praise the American players on their fitness rather than their skill. Yes, on paper, England is a more experienced team but that’s not to say that the Americans are not talented. They most definitely are.
The other thing about the United States men’s national team is that they have a greater self belief. England often bottle under the pressure and have difficulty composing themselves when it matters most. For the United States, they usually do the opposite. The games they shouldn’t win, they play incredibly. And the games that they should win handsomely, they crumble. They truly are a Jekyll and Hyde side. But when they go in as underdogs, as they will do against England, the team will bond and play their hearts out for their country knowing a win will take them to the promised land.
England, on the other hand, feel they’re in an easy group. Many of them won’t admit it publicly, but the pundits are already thinking about the second round and a potential match-up against Germany. The U.S., I believe, are more focused on the game against England because everyone knows how important it is for the country. An England win against the United States will be a blip on the radar in terms of news headlines. But a U.S. victory against England will be front-page news on every major newspaper around the world on Sunday, June 13.
I admit that psychology isn’t everything. The U.S. team is suffering from a long list of injury problems and has a major issue of not having a proven goalscorer up front who has consistently scored on a regular basis for his club and country. But just as Manchester United perfected a 4-6-0 formation in previous seasons, that tactic may work well for the States too.
Lastly, let me add that the above article is in no way based on England’s juvenile performance against Mexico at Wembley on Monday. Friendlies are often a poor reflection of a team’s capabilities especially when several first team players aren’t playing. Instead, I base my prediction on the foundation of sound players the United States has (many of whom play in England) and the sheer importance of this game for the American players and how much more it means to them than it does to England’s footballers. Roll on June 12th.