Soccer fans around the world have transfixed their collective eyeballs to the African country of South Africa. The 2010 FIFA World Cup is underway and the United States Men’s National Team has its sights set on progressing to the next round. First up for the Yanks are the boys from across the Atlantic, team England. England, with its star players and renown coach, are the prohibitive favorites to take Group C. The Americans and Brits will meet to open their respective Cup campaigns on Saturday morning. Here is a brief breakdown of each squad and an attempt at prognostication.
US: The MNT have arguably its most talented side to ever compete in a World Cup. They have a relatively easy draw being grouped with England(FIFA ranked #8), Algeria(#30), and Slovenia(#25). The US is currently ranked #14 by FIFA. The Americans will need strong outings from Landon Donovan, Jozy Altidore, and Clint Dempsey to jump-start the offense. The back line has been shaky over the last few warm up matches with defender Oguchi Onyewu still recovering from knee surgery and Jay DeMerit having vision problems. The US needs a brilliant game from goal keeper Tim Howard. He is arguably a top-5 keeper in the world and has the ability to carry a team on his back(see Everton). The US will win if the back line holds strong, Howard plays great, and Donovan steps up in the big game.
England: The Brits are expected to finish top of the group and advance into the round of 16. Widely regarded as one of the most talented offensive teams in the tournament, England will expect to put up high goal tallies all tournament long. The glaring weakness on a team with only one, is the uncertainty at the keeper position. The three lions have been in search of a top flight keeper for the last decade after the departure of David Seaman during Euro 2004 qualifying in October of 2002. The key to England’s success is solid play by keeper, David James, and the continued brilliance of striker, Wayne Rooney. Rooney tore up the English Premiere League this past season for Manchester United. He nearly single-handedly carried Man United to another Premiere League title. Look for Rooney to drop back to the midfield and use his great strength and athleticism to weave through the center backs of the US. England will win if they play their game and get good play out of the back line and keeper.
The match will likely come down to which team is able to keep composure. England is the more talented and well-coached squad and will have an advantage at nearly every position. However, the Americans have been waiting for this match since the draws were announced. If Tim Howard can continue his net-minding wizardry, the US will have a chance at the end. A big game from Howard and Donovan will likely lead to an American victory. A big game from Rooney will put England in the driver’s seat for progression into the next stage and may spell disaster for US chances for the next round.
Prediction: Look for England to come out strong and on the offensive. The Americans will likely go into a shell and try to weather the storm. Donovan will need to come out aggressively and get Altidore and Dempsey involved early. The back line of England will show its age and will allow a cheap goal. The Americans will hold on to the small lead and pull out a surprise 3-2 victory over England. USA 3 – England 2
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