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June 7, 2012
U.S. starts World Cup qualifying Friday

Landon Donovan leads the USA into World Cup Qualifying beginning Friday night against Antigua & Barbuda.
Landon Donovan leads the USA into World Cup Qualifying beginning Friday night against Antigua & Barbuda.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
TAMPA—Now it’s for real. After months of training and exhibition matches under coach Jurgen Klinsmann, the U.S. Men’s National Team has a match that counts, as they open World Cup Qualifying Friday night against Antigua & Barbuda at 7 p.m. ET at Raymond James Stadium.

While tiny Antigua & Barbuda have never come close to qualifying for a World Cup, and should be an easy mark for the United States, the team’s confidence can’t be too high after a 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Brazil’s Olympic team and a 0-0 tie with Canada on Sunday.

Klinsmann has been using a five games in 18 days stretch as a mini tournament, but so far it has had mixed results. The U.S. looked good in a 5-1 win over Scotland in Jacksonville, but were uninspired against Brazil, and seemed heavy-legged against the Canadians, who also start World Cup qualifying this week.

"What we expect is a team that will try to defend as hard as they can and speculate on counter breaks," said Klinsmann. "We need to break that team down on Friday and keep the tempo up and combining a little bit faster than we did (against Canada) and creating more chances."

Antigua & Barbuda, ranked 13th among CONCACAF teams, started the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying process in the second round. Antigua won Group F with a 5-1-0 record and 15 points, two ahead of Haiti. The Wadadi Boyz outscored their opponents 28-5 during the round and posted the most lopsided victory among the second-round teams with a 10-0 win against the U.S. Virgin Islands on Oct. 11, 2011. This is the first time they have reached the semifinal stage of qualifying.

The USA has never faced Antigua & Barbuda in any competition at the senior international level.

Friday’s game will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN3 and Galavision. The U.S. then heads to Guatemala City for a Tuesday night match against Guatemala. That game will be carried on pay-per view, as well as at

“They're two different teams,” U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said of this week’s opponents. “Going away from qualifying is always difficult, so that will be a big challenge for us against Guatemala. For Antigua, we're at home so we need to win that game. We need to really put a lot of pressure on them and make them feel like they're going to be in a really difficult game.”

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