England will meet the US squad on June 12th at Rustenburg in South Africa and fans in the US are already anticipating what will probably be one of the most watched games in the States. Unfortunately, history is not on the US squad’s side. England have appeared in thirteen tournaments and made it to at least the quarterfinals seven times. The US, on the other hand, has eight appearances in the tournament and has made it to the quarterfinals once. As far as team matchups are concerned, England definitely has the advantage having played the US nine times and only lost twice. I don’t think that will stop the enthusiastic US side from taking it to England but you see the difficulty they face.
On the England fan and media side, a simplistic, arrogant view has been predominant concerning the US squad. They appear to underestimate the US squad and, although the England team rightfully is the favorites in this group, may find themselves to be in for quite a surprise against an eager US side. Just one example of this arrogance is England’s The Sun when they summed up this idea by printing a headline with the word “easy” being an acronym for England, Algeria, Slovenia, and Yanks.
I think a major problem with the US fans and media, however, is their unjustified belief that the game against England amounts to some sort of grand significance. To listen to some fans and media, one might think that beating England was more important than getting out of the group stage. During the US international friendly with the Czech Republic on Tuesday, I was amazed at the amount of times the announcers brought up England. I understand that this is the first game for the US in the tournament but the obsession seems to hinge on unhealthy. Even the new US shirt seems disrespectful to the talented US teams in the last decade or so by celebrating a 60 year old win against England that didn’t result in advancement from the group stage. Why are the US fans so concerned with beating England?
- US fans view this as a chance to prove themselves.
With most American soccer fans watching the Premier League and possibly even having England as their “second” side, there’s the hope that the birthplace of football will give the US some credit. However, I don’t believe that beating England will do this. Constantly qualifying for the World Cup and having players at top clubs accomplishes this much more convincingly. Plus, even if the US demolishes England, a loss at this point in time to the US will still be seen as a fluke in England and will gain little respect.
- Many US fans view this as a rivalry.
It seems many US fans view England as a rival and see this as the equivalent of an international derby. Maybe it’s because of our close political ties or the amount of ex-pats living in the US. This rivalry, however, doesn’t seem to be a shared one. Paul Bestall wrote an excellent article last week describing the regular, England fan’s view of the US squad. His view is that England does view the US as a threat – but just like any other team out there. He writes, “…as with Algeria and Slovakia, the team are expected to win. Nothing more, nothing less.” I feel similarly – that English fans want a win against the US but it wouldn’t mean anything more than a win against Slovenia. England fans just don’t seem to share the US fan’s intense feelings about the game, only the expectation that they should win. The US already have a shared rivalry and it’s Mexico not England.
- Beating England will bring exposure to the sport in the US.
I’ve heard this argument a few times (and many times from people I respect) and it still doesn’t make any sense to me. The argument is that by beating England people will start to see their national side as real contenders and take notice of them. The US beat Spain, an arguably much more talented side than England, last year and it didn’t seem to raise any awareness other than with the enthusiast. I believe common sense should lead you to understand that (as said before) continuous advancement in the tournament and quality US players signing for top clubs should be the main goals for the US in order to raise awareness of the sport. Beating England or Spain without these two goals being met is not enough.
In addition, I think anyone that thinks the US will beat England is letting one of the above reasons cloud judgment. Would US fans take a similar stand on a matchup between Greece and Germany or Egypt and Argentina?
The question of who will win aside, US fans should not be so concerned with England. If the US squad and their fans really do want to prove themselves to the world and advance the game in this country, they have to forget about England and focus on the tournament.