June 12, 2010
By Charles Cuttone
THE WAIT IS OVER
Anticipated USA-England game is Saturday
The phrase One Game Changes Everything has been used by ESPN in promoting its coverage of this year’s World Cup. For the heavily anticipated United States England match on Saturday, that could be the case---or not.
|Tim Howard, Landon Donovan and the U.S. are ready for the highly anticipated match against England.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
True, if the United States were to pull off what would be an upset, it could change how the rest of the world, particularly Britons, look at soccer in the United States, and a loss for England could deflate their ego and hopes for a self-stated goal of being in the Final, but with two games remaining against lightly regarded Slovakia and Slovenia, the outcome of Saturday’s game likely would change little in either team’s chances of advancing to the second stage.
Saturday’s 2:30 pm (ET) game has been one of the most anticipated matchups of the World Cup, ever since the schedule was announced In December. Much has been made of the 1950 World Cup game when the U.S. stunned England 1-0 on a goal by Joey Gaetjens. British media, certain the score was wrong, reported it as 10-0 England.
The Americans then were unknown, and the British were the inventors and masters of the game. Much has changed since. The matchup is not one of a titan against a minnow. Slowly over the last two decades, the U.S. has proved it can play with anyone.
Last year, a Confederations Cup win over Spain, and a 3-2 loss to Brazil in the final proved the U.S. belongs. While they may not be considered a World Cup contender, they are no fluke.
“The game has tremendous roots, it has diversity,” said U.S. coach Bob Bradley on the meaning of the sport to the U.S. "So every time we step on the field as a national team, we represent all the people who are involved in soccer in the United States. The ability to perform at the highest level and be successful, we understand what that would mean to everyone.”
The U.S. is certainly ready for the game. Many of the players on the team have played in England and know the opposing players well—and they are accustomed to being underdogs and performing well.
“This is everything that we’ve dreamed of, and everything that everyone is talking about, and so we’re ready to just get it on and see what we’re made of. said goalkeeper Tim Howard, who knows all of the English players well after spending the last five years as one of the top goalkeepers in the Premier League.
“All the talk is over, or soon will be over, and we’re excited for that. We are prepared, we know exactly what kind of game we’re going to be in, we’re under no illusions. I think it couldn’t be a better challenge to be the first game for us.”
England, quarterfinalists at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, rolled through their qualifying group and a pegged among the favorites by many to win the World Cup.
The team boasts some of the world’s best players, including Wayne Rooney, the scoring leader in the Premiership with Manchester United.
Bradley, naturally, sees stopping Rooney as a key to the United States’ chances on Saturday.
“I think he’s such an important player in their team. He comes off a super season, so our ability to keep track of him and make it hard for him is a very important part of what we need to do in order to win.”
Certainly, the U.S. does not have a single player to match the skill of Rooney, let alone an entire lineup of them. The British press has derided the fact that the Americans who play in England toil for clubs such as Everton and Wolverhampton Wanderers, hardly the cream of the EPL crop.
The Americans' greatest weapon on Saturday could be the element of surprise and England’s overconfidence.
Their coach, Fabio Capello, who took over the team after they failed to qualify for Euro 2008, failed to address the U.S. team or any of its players in his press conference on Friday.
“I have confidence in the team because we played well during the qualifying matches and during the more recent friendlies,” said Capello.” And there is a great deal of confidence and I feel really responsible for all of this. But I do believe that this time around we have a team, a squad that can make it to the final.”
They have to get past the first round and the U.S. first.