First Time Expectations – World Cup 2010
The 2010 World Cup will be a tournament of firsts. South Africa is the first African nation to ever host the greatest tournament in the world. The competition is being televised across the states on the ABC/ESPN network for every single game. It will be the first World Cup since the rapid growth of the game being televised in the US to much success, particularly the Champions League and the EPL. It will be the first time I ever attend a World Cup match. But the most important first is that for the first time, the United States comes into the World Cup as a favorite to advance out of the group stages. The significance of this fact cannot be overlooked when reviewing the rapid ascent of the beautiful game in the United States.
As little as twenty years ago, the United States wasn’t even a dark horse to advance out of the group stage of the World Cup but an afterthought to even qualify. After Paul Caligiuri hit the glorious “Shot heard round the world” in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago to propel the United States to an incredible 1-0 win in T&T against the highly favored Socca Warriors, the USMNT was headed for their first World Cup in decades. Not years, decades. In the group stage in Italy ’90, they were nothing more then an afterthought. 1994 brought the World Cup to the US, but a shocking US team advanced out of the group stage thanks to a huge upset against Columbia and managed to advance unexpectedly as one of the best third place teams. After qualifying for France in 1998, the US faced two European powerhouses in Germany and Yugoslavia and were never really considered to be dangerous. 2002 brought a spectacular run to the quarterfinals where the US emerged again as an underdog to then beat pre-cup favorite Portugal, and Mexico in the round of 16. After being robbed by a questionable call against Germany, the US bowed out in the quarterfinals, a great finish for a team that was expected to go out in the group stage. In April 2006, after dominating CONCACAF qualifying the US reached their highest FIFA ranking at #4 in the world. They were rewarded with world powers Italy and the Czech Republic coupled with a Ghana side that was the best African team. This group of death left the Americans hard pressed to succeed as again they took on the underdog role. They couldn’t do enough to advance through an incredibly tough group. Regardless of how talented the US team has been or how their World Cup draw has emerged, they have never entered a World Cup as a favorite to emerge out of the group stage, until now.
The 2010 drawing brought the Americans a group with Algeria, England, and Slovenia. Looking at this group you can see it is a favorable draw for the American side, as they drew one of the weaker number one seeds, and arguably the weakest side from each of the other two pots. Yet the Americans are not considered a favorite to advance based strictly on the strength of their opponents, but on their own merit. After a dismal first two matches in the Confederations Cup last summer, the USMNT rallied against Egypt in a clutch performance that sent them through to the semifinals against world power Spain. 90 minutes, two goals, and a spectacular performance from Tim Howard and his back line left the Spanish side in shock as the US headed for their first major tournament final. A heartbreaking loss to Brazil showed the world that Team America has to be considered a threat at the least, and showed that they can beat any team on any day. This talented American team has played with swagger and poise that US fans have never seen before. A painful streak of injuries has threatened to dislodge the lineup that shocked the world last summer in South Africa, but it appears that guys like Demps, Gooch, and Stu should be back in time for June. If Charlie Davies can continue his miraculous recovery, he will add the missing link to a dangerous US side that is sorely missing him. But potential and past results only mean so much, the question becomes how will the Americans react to this new pressure?
Pages: 1 2