World Cup 2010: Most important game for USA in Group C is Algeria v Slovenia

All attention on the redcoats but Algeria v Slovenia more meaningful for US qaulification; Photo by Axel

Every American soccer fan I have talked to in the last few days has nothing else on their minds other than the opening matchup in Group C against England. A great deal more than 3 points will be on the line when the English line up against the Yanks in Rustenberg on June 12th. But it’s actually another Group C match the following day between Algeria and Slovenia that will likely have more impact on the American’s qualification hopes.

Getting England in Group C is massively important for the growth of soccer in America. Most American soccer fans follow the Premier League and know a great deal about the England team. Fox Soccer Channel has built its entire network on showing English league games and the common language makes the English game even more accessible for US fans. Continue reading


How they view US – a scan of the UK papers

There is definitely some bulletin board material in the UK papers this morning but far far less than one would have expected just a few years ago. There is in general a mild respect for the US now in England and a recognition that we should be England’s toughest test in the group stage. In general, the British press’ instinctively dismissive view of US soccer has appeared to fade and we are now viewed more or less correctly, as a team on par with “Sweden” or an international version of “Fulham.” That’s about right and signals some significant advancement in improving America’s international reputation. One thing is clear the confederations cup was huge.

The Sun – “The Best England Group Since the Beatles” – eat that Oasis.

Terry Venables – former England manager: Similar to Sweden

“The US game will be tough because they’ll be very well organised and they’ll be fit. They won’t out-play us, but they could out-strength us, but they’ll be similar to the Sweden sides we’ve met at tournaments in the past: they’ll be solid. There won’t be too many players to out-skill us or shock us, but they’ll be strong. But we could still have hand-picked that group and been satisfied. Look at one or two of the other groups, Spain, Brazil … we’d have been saying ‘Oh dear’ if we’d got those groups.”

Martin Samuel – Daily Mail: We are Fulham.

The United States are the Fulham of international football, organised and awkward, but no more. If England cannot beat them in the opening group game on Saturday, June 12, another two years, not to mention the odd £10m, has been wasted.

Roy Hodgson – Fulham manager: “It’ll be like a Premier League game”

The US are well organised and well drilled, athletically very good and with players with a lot of experience playing in England or Germany, but that could be a like-versus-like contest… That could actually be quite good for England. It’ll be like a Premier League game, with two teams with a similar style. They’ll know how England play, but we won’t be surprised with what they’re going to come with. And I think that England have just got far too much quality for the US.”

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This will be giving me nightmares until 6-12

Oh dear God…Aaron Lennon vs. Jonathan Bornstein…

This is not a fair match-up… Hopefully Edgar Castillo will emerge. Because Lennon will torch Bornstein all day.

Weekend Rewind

Some thoughts on this weekends action.

First, the Manchester derby lived up to the hype. There have been a lot of detailed explanations for the two extra minutes. Yes, Bellamy celebrated a goal just as the board went up and there was also a substitution. But there is a reason managers make substitutions at the very end of games – it is to waste time! It’s a common tactic that works and officials rarely take that time into account – if they did why would they care if players stall while going off the field and furthermore why would players stall! I am not saying that slack time keeping is a good thing, but match officials are almost never that eagle-eye about added time. Hence the suspicious letter of the law interpretation. The Guardian in a great piece of investigative sports journalism concludes – yes, Man U. do get more stoppage time.

Additionally, British commentators show at times a maddening level of pro-English bias. A common refrain now heard is that Carlos Tevez runs around like a “headless chicken.” Hmm… His work rate caused a Ben Foster mistake and a city goal. Could you just imagine the praise that would descend down if that were Wayne Rooney.

Second, Spurs lost to a better Chelsea side, but definitely didn’t get any breaks. Tottenham had a bright start but didn’t convert despite many chances. Continue reading

Looks like its gonna be Capello

Is the long national nightmare over? The news out of England points to Italian Fabio Capello as the man set to replace Steve McClaren as England manager. If the FA can tie up the details of Capello’s contract—a big if with this crew—the former Milan, Juventus, Roma, and Real Madrid coach will take over a team that twice threw away qualification for next summer’s European Championships with defeats when a solitary draw would have seen them through.


McClaren’s disastrous decisions in both the Croatia fixtures, experimenting with an untried 3-5-2 formation in Zagreb and an untested Scott Carson in the return, were a key factor in England’s ultimate failure. But Michael Owen is right, not a single Croat in their starting XI would have made it into even the injury- and suspension-depleted line-up that ran out for the Three Lions at Wembley. For all the obsessing over the manager, soccer is a players’ game. Preparing and selecting the team are important, but once the coach turns in the team sheet, the players have 90 minutes to settle things on the pitch.


Capello will start with a leg up on the first foreign manager to take the reigns of the English national team. The Swede Sven Goran Eriksson was expected to be the final piece to the puzzle that finally took the supposed golden generation of English players to the winners’ circle at a major tournament. Never able to live up to those lofty expectation, yet Eriksson’s three quarterfinal losses—two on penalties and once to the eventual champion—now look like stunning achievements compared to McClaren’s bungling qualification campaign. Consequently, expectations will be reasonable.


Challenges do remain, however. Can Michael Owen still perform at an elite level or is he simple too fragile to be relied upon to score goals? Will Wayne Rooney recover the form that dazzled at Euro 2004? Can Rooney, Lampard, and Gerrard all play together in the center of the park? Who will play on the wings and are they fast enough to stretch elite International defenses? Are any of the midfielders capable of maintaining possession and controlling the pace of the game? And of course, who is going to play in goal?


Fortunately for Capello, he wont have to play a competitive fixture until next September, giving him plenty of time to work through these questions. With his credentials, he will probably be able to come up with at least enough of the answers to make England competitive. The rest will be up to the players.