Every four years, one of the biggest sporting events in the world comes to fruition, and Friday in South Africa, the FIFA World Cup gets under way when the hosts take on Mexico in Johannesburg.
One of the biggest concerns for this year’s event, however, is the number of notable players missing the event due to injury. Players like Ghana’s Michael Essien, Germany’s Michael Ballack, England’s Rio Ferdinand and former national teammate David Beckham have already been ruled out for sure. Others such as Ivory Coast’s Dider Drogba, Holland’s Arjen Robben and Spain’s Fernando Torres are all question marks with recent injuries.
As for the United States, striker Jozy Altidore hurt his ankle in practice last week and was unavailable for their last friendly match against Australia over the weekend. However, sources say he should be fit for their first game Saturday.
In that game against the Socceroos, the Americans beat the 20th-ranked team in the world handily, 3-1. On their road to the World Cup, they topped the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football qualifying region for the second straight time and are appearing in their record sixth straight World Cup Final.
This may have been said many times, but this time around it is easily the Yanks’ most talented squad, and let’s be honest, you can’t argue with this bunch.
After a 36-year hiatus from the event, their squads from 1990-1998 had teams full of college kids, young unknown players and Major League Soccer players who had been playing professionally for only a few years. Sure there were Alexei Lalas, Eric Wynalda and John Harkes but Tony Meola was no savior in the net.
In 2002 and 2006 there were only 12 players on U.S. World Cup rosters playing abroad. This time around, 19 of the 23-man roster for the U.S. are playing outside MLS.
There are Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo all peaking in their careers, not to mention top domestic boy Landon Donovan, who enjoyed a short stint with English Premier League team Everton this past season.
However good the team might be this time, it still is up against one of the toughest rivals ever in its first game Saturday. England is the first opponent, and while many people want to give the U.S. a chance, let’s face it, there’s not much possibility of the Americans coming out of the match with anything.
No matter how much people want to talk about when the U.S. beat England in 1950 in one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history, that wasn’t exactly the best British team as it failed to make it out of its group that year. The same can be said about its current squad, with no clue which goalkeeper it will start against the Americans. The English still are bringing out stars John Terry, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney. But when matched up against the American stars, the U.S. doesn’t seem to stand much of a chance.
While American goalkeeper Howard would be the only player able to make the starting lineup for an England squad, the U.S. goes into the game with great confidence based on how it performed in the 2009 Confederations Cup, reaching the finals of a FIFA event for the first time ever, beating top-ranked Spain and taking Brazil to the brink.
After England, the U.S. faces Algeria and Slovenia, two lesser teams that beat teams far superior than them to reach the finals. Apart from the England game, one can see the Americans coming out of the group with two wins from their other opponents and advancing to the knockout round of 16.