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The world will convene for its biggest celebration of sport this summer. The USA will be there, looking to shock the world once again.
The FIFA World Cup kicks off June 11 in South Africa, and the U.S. men’s national team kicks off their competition a day later.
Recent memories will give the squad hope against the European juggernaut England. Last time the U.S. was in South Africa, they shocked the world and came from nowhere to reach the Confederation’s Cup final, beating Egypt and world-number-one Spain along the way before falling against Brazil.
No one gave the U.S. a chance in the Confederation’s Cup, and the same could be said for the World Cup.
In a recent poll on FIFA.com, only 9 percent of voters think that the USA will win Group C, behind England and Algeria but ahead of Slovenia.
England comes into the World Cup with a plethora of superstars. With the likes of Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and John Terry, England looks to be the dominant favorite in the group. The Three Lions have a little bad blood when it comes to playing the U.S. The Americans shocked them with a 1-0 defeat in 1950, throwing out a team of amateurs against an England team filled with pros.
Now the U.S. has its own pros, and is looking to recapture the glory of 60-years ago. It’s a tough task, and the players need to be prepared for a grind if they’re going to have any success.
A repeat of the early exit from the 2006 World Cup will be a great disappointment, not only to the teams, but to the fans that have seen a vast improvement in the team. A nation that was once seen as just as stepping stone now has hopes of being a contender.
Even if they end up losing to England, there are still two chances for the U.S. to get out of Group C. Games against Algeria and Slovenia are still certain to be a test. Getting second will see the U.S. get out of their group. Both players and fans have said they have high expectations for 2010, and so advancing to the knockout stages is a necessity
With decent performances throughout Qualifying and in the friendly warm-ups leading up to the World Cup, expectations should be high for the U.S. Losing 2-1 to Holland in the Netherlands may seem like as failure, but the performance showed the resolve of the team, even without many of its star players. The U.S. will need their stars if they have hopes of advancing, but performances over the past year will give fans hope that their expectations will be met.
Players to watch:
Landon Donovan is probably the biggest name associated with U.S. soccer. Captain of his current club, the L.A. Galaxy, he is the all-time leader in scoring and assists for his country. He impressed almost everyone on his 10-week loan spell at English club Everton, leading to rumors that he would stay there past his deal, but returned to L.A. after the World Cup.
Donovan’s contribution to U.S. is essential to U.S. success. He did not show his colors in the 2006 World Cup, and the team fell apart. When Donovan plays well, the team plays well, it’s that simple. His speed and creativity have created many scoring opportunities throughout his career. His is undoubtedly the on-field leader of the team and need to break the big game lull he seems to have. Look for Donovan coming out of the midfield and leading the U.S. attack.
The unsung hero of the U.S. is Clint Dempsey. A first choice winger for the English club Fulham, his contribution to the U.S. national team are priceless. Scoring important goals against Egypt and Spain, Dempsey can be creative on the ball, not only finishing opportunities, but creating them as well.
Dempsey will be seen as a winger when starting games, but his greatest contributions to the team have been when he pushed into the forward position. Head coach Bob Bradley has to take this into consideration with forward Charlie Davies questionable at best after his horrible car accident. No matter where he plays, look for Dempsey to make an immediate impact. He will be motivated to show his wonderful club season was not a fluke.
Tim Howard has been a mainstay between the posts for the U.S. since the departure of the great Casey Keller. The U.S. has produced some great goal keepers, and Howard is no exception. A keeper’s job is one of the toughest on the field, and Howard steps up at every chance. He rarely makes mistakes, even when his defense leaves him out to dry. You can see him screaming at his defenders during games, pointing out problems and making sure they don’t make the same mistakes twice. He is obviously one of the vocal leaders on the team, and his performance in June will surely boost the rest of the team around him.
If the U.S. wants the respect it so desperately seeks, then failure in South Africa is not an option. U.S. Soccer has such a bright future, and World Cup 2010 is the best way to showcase it.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Mark McNeillie at Mark.email@example.com.