The United States Men’s National Team will be competing in Group C come June 12th in Rustenburg after finishing top of the CONCACAF group and clinching a spot in South Africa. The Americans will be making their 9th appearance in a World Cup tournament and after sustained progress under head coach Bob Bradley the expetations are higher than ever from Sam’s Army and the rest of the U.S supporters.
Coach: Bob Bradley
FIFA World Ranking: 14th
Captain: Carlos Bocanegra
These expectations are not drawn out of false hope, the U.S had a fabulous Confederations cup where they were able to beat Euro 2008 Champions Spain 2-0 on the way to the final only to be narrowaly beaten out 3-2 by the phenomenon which is Brazil. The Americans also made a second final the month later as they topped their group in the Gold Cup and beat fellow World Cup qualifiers Honduras on the way to the final only to be beaten by arch rivals Mexico. So many people, including myself, are expecting a solid performance from the U.S at the upcoming World Cup.
How They Qualified
The U.S made it quiet comfortably into the final round of qualifying from the CONCACAF section scoring their biggest ever victory in a 8-0 (9-0 agg) demolition of Barbados in the Second qualifying round. Consequently, they qualified for the third round of qualifying and were drawn in Group A against Trinidad and Tobago; Guatemala and Cuba. The U.S would go on to win 5 out of 6 games only loosing to Trinidad and Tobago whilst scoring 15 goals and only conceding 3. They were on the brink of qualifying for their 9th World Cup when they arrived at the final stage of qualifying or the fourth round of CONCACAF qualifying. The Yanks would go on to win a total of 6 games and top the group, a point ahead of rivals Mexico and four points ahead of third place Honduras. They also ended up as top goal scorers in the group however they did concede the most goals of all the teams that qualified. So all in all, it was deemed a successful qualifying campagin and all roads led to South Africa.
The U.S were placed in pot 2 of the final draw with the rest of the North American, Asian and Oceanic teams. The U.S ended up with a favourable draw as they were drawn with England; Algeria and Slovenia. The Americans could have been drawn against a lot tougher compotition and were lucky to miss out facing the likes of France and Portugal from pot four as well as England.
The grudge match against England will gain a lot of national interest form non soccer fans and a good performance will only continue to help U.S Soccer grow. Algeria and Slovenia, Will be far from push overs as we all know their are no easy games in the World Cup. However the nation expects and anything other than a second place finish in the group will be seen as a disappointing world cup from many Americans.
The U.S have faced many top nations in order to make sure their in tip top shape for the World Cup. On the 3rd March the U.S travelled to Amsterdam to face the Netherlands in a game which they lost out 2-1 to goals from Klass Jan Huntelaar and a Durk Kuyt penalty were to much for the U.S who finally got on the board on the 88′ minute with a goal from Captain Carlos Bocanegra.
Another friendly against a good European side came on the 25th May when the U.S were back on home soil and took on the Czech Republic with an experimental side missing players such as Tim Howard; Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley and these players were certainly missed as the Czech’s romped to a 4-2 victory over the U.S in a performance which merrited the result.
In their final match before they set off to South Africa, The U.S faced a strong Turkish side. Some questions were sparked over the American defence after this game as Turkey’s fast counter-attacking play caused some problems for the U.S however they ran out winners in the end with goals from Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey.
The friendlies came to a end when the U.S faced the Socceroos in roodepoort. The U.S used this to help them become more acclimatised with the altitude and a brace from Edson Buddle as well as a Hercluez Gomez strike was enough to cancel out a Tim Cahill goal and win the game 3-1.
After a fair few build up games the U.S are ready and raring to go against England come the 12th June.
The Three Key Players
The reliable, experienced, dominating goalkeeper brings valuable leadership and experience to the U.S Mens National Team. Howard is a leader from the back and not afraid to open his mouth and give the defence a rollicking; Howard also posses great shot stopping ability and will keep the U.S in games which they shouldn’t be because of his top shot stopping.
Unquestionably one of the best players in the squad, Donovan will be looking to take his form with Everton and LA Galaxy into the World Cup as the nations expectations rests on his shoulders. Donovan has the fantastic ability to slice defences in half with his passing and not to mention his mazy runs from midfield which can can tantalise defences. The U.S talisman will also bring vital goals from midfield and will play a big part in Bob Bradley’s plans to get the U.S far in the World Cup.
After just missing out on European glory with club side Fulham, Dempsey would love nothing more than to take his nation to the latter stages of the World Cup. Dempsey is a passionate, exciting midfielder who adds to the Americans counter attacking play. Like Donovan, he uses his pace and great footballing knowledge to get at the right place and the right time. Dempsey will be looking to continue his scoring form and have a successful World Cup with the U.S.
There has been numerous questions raised about the U.S defence coming into the World Cup. The friendly against Turkey was a scary sight for U.S fans as they watched Adra Turan tear apart Jonathan Spectator with his pace and often left the defence looking frail. When the U.S midfield attacked and left a gap, the Turks were quick to exploit and any chance to run at the U.S defence was not passed on.
If the Turks had of been more clinical with their finishing then the final outcome could have been much much different. This game would have alerted the rest of Group C and I’m sure wingers such as Aaron Lennon, Robert Koren and Ryad Boudebouz will be looking to take advantage of this come the World Cup.
Chances Of Winning
The U.S would be a huge surprise to lift the World Cup however they do have a favourable draw. Its most likely that they could end up facing either Germany or Serbia if they qualify from their group and both teams are not unbeatable. Serbia are a strong unit and Germany have an injury crisis at the moment so its not unlikely that the U.S could end up with a quarter final place which would be a successful World Cup for the U.S in my opinion.
However, the World Cup is the World Cup and anything can happen. The U.S could play their hearts out and go far or they could play their hearts out and go home after three games. Its the beauty of the World Cup.
The U.S, in my opinion, have enough talent to surprise some of the bigger nations in the World Cup. A victory on June 12th in Rustenburg against England would be a momentous start for the U.S and could really help them in their goal of getting to the latter stages of the World Cup. However, regardless of the result on June 12th I believe the U.S will qualify from Group C and set up an interesting Round of 16 tie.
Bob Bradley will make sure his side is ready to go come the start of the World Cup and if players like Donovan, Dempsey, Altidore and Bradley perform then who knows. Just who knows?
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