December 5, 2009
By Michael Lewis
INCREDIBLE, BUT TRUE
Opposing coaches tip U.S. to reach 2nd round of the World Cup
CAPE TOWN -- Some rare words were uttered Friday night, which hadn't been heard at many, if any, World Cup draws.
"I think England and the USA are favored in this group," Slovenia coach Matjaz Kek said.
"It's a group that gives England and the USA an advantage," Algeria coach Rabah Saadane added.
Incredible. Two opposing coaches believe the U.S. can reach the next round here in South Africa this June.
Those are the great expectations facing the Americans, who could not have asked for a better draw, which was determined at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.
The Americans were placed in Group C along with seeded England (Rustenburg on June 12), Slovenia (Johannesburg on June 18), which is participating in its second World Cup, and Algeria (Pretoria on June 23), which needed a playoff to reach soccer's promised land.
No one on the U.S. team would give itself any advantage. "I don't think there are weak teams," coach Bob Bradley diplomatically said.
But then again, no one was calling Group C the Group of Death.
If the Americans do finish second, they probably would play Germany in the second round in Mangaung on June 27.
The marquee Group C match is U.S. vs. England for historical reasons -- recent and ancient. The encounter will pit twp L.A. Galaxy teammates -- Landon Donovan and England's David Beckham, who had a tiff this summer after Donovan criticized Beckham in Grant Wahl's book, "The Beckham Experiment." Donovan apologized for making those comments publicly but not for the content.
"Playing against your own teammate would be pretty incredible," Donovan said.
Donovan said it "took about a half a second" to realize who he was playing against." "I wish we got a shot on his [Beckham's] face."
Beckham was on worldwide TV as he played a role in the draw, taking balls out of pots.