Tuesday, December 08, 2009

ATH: US Chances in South Africa

from the US National Team Players Association

Bradley And Capello On USA - England

US National Team Coach Bob Bradley: “It gives us a great opportunity to challenge ourselves in the first game. Believe me, we know that Algeria and Slovenia are very good teams and we have respect for what they accomplished. We’ll do our preparation and prepare our team. It's a four-year period of growing and we've played very tough teams along the way. We have the experience of the Confederations Cup. I think the final round of qualification in CONCACAF was a good challenge. I think these things work in a positive way to make sure that when we arrive here in June, everybody is ready to go.”

England Manager Fabio Capello: “Well, we played in Wembley last year in a friendly game, also against Slovenia, and they were both very good games. But I think the next game that we play here will be different. I know that the USA played here in June, played very well. I saw a lot of the games, saw them beat Spain, I do not think it will be an easy game. And another thing about the USA is that they will have more time to prepare and work hard.”

Early Scouting Group C

By Clemente Lisi -- World Cup draws have traditionally not been kind to the United States. That tradition (finally!) came to an end Friday in Cape Town.

Trying to predict which teams the US would be pitted against in the first round of next year’s World Cup was nearly impossible on the eve of the draw. What many expected was a tough group -- even “Group of Death” tough -- after the Americans were placed in Pot 2 on Wednesday by FIFA. That left the prospect of getting drawn into a group with seeded sides like Brazil or Italy and joined by a European team such as Portugal or France.

Instead, the US avoided a nightmare first round and ended up in Group C with the manageable trio of England, Algeria and Slovenia. This may be the most favorable draw the US has ever received at a World Cup and not getting to the second round will be seen as a lost opportunity.

Here is a quick look at the USA’s three opponents as the pundits spend the next six months picking apart the eight groups:

England

Landon Donovan faces a familiar face in Los Angeles Galaxy teammate David Beckham and against an England squad that is always considered one of the favorites to win it all. Perennial underachievers since lifting the World Cup at home 43 years ago, England are coached by former AC Milan and Real Madrid manager Fabio Capello. He is rightly considered one of the best in the World.

The England players are very familiar to American fans of the Premier League – such as Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard, Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney and Chelsea’s Frank Lampard – and to a group of US players who play in England. Tim Howard knows these opponents from his weekly meetings against them with his club Everton. Ditto for Fulham’s Clint Dempsey and Hull City’s Jozy Altidore. The encounter could go either way and should make for a riveting opening game.

Way Too Early Prediction: USA 1 - England 1

Slovenia

Winners of a two-match playoff against Russia, the former Yugoslav republic were surprise qualifiers for the 2000 European Championship (after defeating Ukraine in a playoff) and 2002 World Cup (after defeating Romania in a playoff). A team that is no stranger to pulling upsets in qualifying, Slovenia has achieved little once it reaches major tournaments.

A well-organized squad that features a tenacious defense and counterattacking offensive skills, Slovenia is led by striker Milivoje Novakovic, who has scored 13 goals in 36 appearances. His five goals during 2010 Qualifying were key. This is a squad the US can beat and should beat if it hopes to earn a second round berth.

Way Too Early Prediction:

USA 3 - Slovenia 2

Algeria

The North Africans survived a tough, one-game playoff against favorites Egypt to qualify for the finals. The weakest of the African teams to reach the World Cup, Algeria is another opponent the US can beat.

Leading the team are a group of English-based players: Portsmouth defender Nadir Belhadj, Hull City midfielder (and Altidore teammate) Kamel Ghilas, and Blackpool’s French-born striker Hameur Bouazza. The Algerians, accustomed to the heat, are at a notable disadvantage playing in the chilly South African winter. The Algerians qualified for the 1982 and 1986 World Cups – and both times they failed to get past the round-robin stage.

Way Too Early Prediction:

US 3 - Algeria 1


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