WORLD CUP EIGHT BALL
PREVIEWS
RECAPS
EXTRA TIME
EDGAR ZUNIGA - Monday, December 7, 2009
After a few harrowing moments through the dark, tangled forest that was the FIFA World Cup 2010 draw, the US has emerged into the light and see before them a tough, but manageable road.

And, yes, Bob Bradley is blinking in the sunlight.

Almost every prognosticator, soothsayer and automated drawing program had the US thrown into a difficult group. For a while, it seemed almost inevitable that the US was going to have to face Ivory Coast, Netherlands or France, maybe even Brazil.

Almost everyone was hoping to somehow land in Group A with host South Africa, which - no offense - are, arguably, the weakest host nation in World Cup history. When Mexico was chosen first, you could hear the gnashing of American teeth echoing across the land.

But, as it turns out, playing England, Algeria and Slovenia is a lot better than what Group A has in store for the Mexicans, who are slated to play South Africa (a host has never been eliminated in the first round - why would FIFA let that happen now?), seemingly shaky but very physical Uruguay, and everyone's public enemy number one France - the US in that group? No thanks....

It isn't going to be a walk through the Smurf village, but at least the US won't have to worry about soccer superpowers, until at least the second round. And, no...England is not a soccer superpower.

So, what's in store for our boys in the World Cup? Let's break it down.

First up, you couldn't ask for a better first opponent than England. You can bet the guys at ESPN are drooling over the production that will go leading up to this matchup. Jump onto any soccer forum and the heckling and chest-pounding from both sides of the pond began almost immediately.

When you take into account the Los Angeles Galaxy-factor, with teammates David Beckham and Landon Donovan clashing in the World Cup, it's so perfect - it's Hollywood.

Just this past summer, Donovan was ripping Becks in Grant Wahl's much-discussed tell-all The Beckham Experiment. Upon the return of the Englishman from Milan, they kissed and made up, taking Galaxy to the brink of MLS glory. Now, they'll be going head-to-head again, but on the world's biggest stage.

For causal American soccer fans, it will be a sumptuous feast, with Beckham biscuits and Landycakes for all. It has the potential to be the most watched US soccer match in history. You can bet ESPN will milk it for all it's worth.

But what about the game? Oh, yes...there's a game to be played.

Yeah, England did great in qualifying, taking their group with nine wins, no draws and a single loss. England prepared well for the challenges of Ukraine and Croatia, two decent teams. However, you look at the rest of the group...Belarus, Kazakhstan and Andorra. They're not exactly world class, you know.

But, that's what the qualification process is for - to separate the best from the rest - and England is a team whose pride has been hurt so many times since 1966, that supporters will expect - no...demand - a victory over the inferior Yanks and anything less will be seen as a failure for the English.

For the US, it will be a huge opportunity to not only upset the "mighty" English team, but proclaim to the world that the American team will no longer just be an also-ran.

And think of the media fallout from that...

Can the US beat England? It's a definite possibility.

Will the US beat England? Probably not - definitely, no, if the US plays with their tails between their legs like they did in Wembley Stadium in 2008.

Next up for the US will be Slovenia, who, to be honest, came out of a weak qualifying group. Slovakia edged them for first place by two points, the Czech Republic isn't what it used to be, Northern Ireland and Poland are weak, and San Marino is a joke - even the Vatican put a team together that beat them.

What Slovenia did well, though, was lull the Russians into a false sense of confidence, and edged them by the slimmest margin to earn their passport to the World Cup. Andrei Arshavin is probably making funny faces in a mirror somewhere, right now.

It's a wonder how a team like Slovenia, which could only manage to push eight goals past San Marino, in two qualifying games, made it this far. Still, the US better watch out or the Slovenians might put them to sleep and slip past them.

Can the US beat Slovenia? Yes.

Will the US beat Slovenia? The Magic 8-Ball says: Outlook good.

Finally, the US will have to deal with Algeria, another team that made it this far by the slimmest of margins. Algeria just barely got past Gambia and Senegal in an earlier qualifying stage, and, after tying with African Cup of Nations champions Egypt on everything in the final round, won a tiebreaking playoff, 1-0, to qualify.

This is only the third time that Algeria has qualified for a World Cup and there's no telling how they will fare. Some have argued that Egypt slept on their laurels as African champions, allowing Algeria to sneak by. Others will argue that Algeria will be a darkhorse in the World Cup and can't be taken lightly.

Well, it is the World Cup and you can't take anyone lightly, but the US has the chops to beat a team of this caliber. Algeria showed a lot of grit after being attacked by Egyptian fans prior to their qualifying playoff. It's grit that drives Team USA, more than anything. So, you can bet this will be a battle of wills.

Can the US beat Algeria? Yes.

Will the US beat Algeria? The Magic-8 Ball just broke, but, yes, they should beat Algeria.

Okay, now, hold on...in this scenario, did the US just win two matches and possibly draw with England? That's enough to finish second or even take the group.

However, before you go get a tattoo of Bob across your chest and run screaming through the streets naked, for anything positive to happen for the US, all the players must be in good form and healthy.

We already know that Charlie Davies will be missed. Even if Oguchi Onyewu rushes back to competition, it's not like he's a starter with Milan and will get the necessary playing time to get back to playing form.

Bob has some holes to plug, and fast. Blink, Bob, blink!

While there are some loose ends that need to be tied before the US sets off on the meandering road to World Cup glory, at least for now, let the warm glow of a favorable World Cup draw keep you warm throughout the holiday season.

Let the English know how much you love them and invite them over for a Boston tea party.
Terry.R
Tuesday January 12, 2010 7:34 am
I live here in Switzerland, so I will not have much support come 12th of June. But what I plan on doing is going out with some friends, some are English, and have a lot of beer, good grilled food and enjoy the company of my friends. I don't expect that the U.S. beats England, but if we do, I will be very happy and drunk. The rest of the games I will be supporting my friends and their teams, till the day comes when we have to face each other down the road. I just hope everyone enjoys the World Cup, and has fun, no matter where you are. Good Luck to you all.
Robert
Friday January 8, 2010 4:43 pm
As an American football fan - wearing my Yanks Abroad t-shirt as I write this - living/working in Slovakia let me give you my perspective. This will NOT be a 'walk in the park' folks. Having just returned from 12 days in England, they are suffering from the same mistakes the author (and several of the commenters here) are suffering from.

ANYONE who underestimates Slovenia and/or Algeria is going to get beat (you can ask Andrey Arshavin, as the author suggests). Living here I have the possibility to see many games that those of you back home may not see. Some examples: I saw the Slovakia v. Slovenia WC qualifier - the Slovaks were dreaming of qualifying in front of their home fans - lost. I saw the Slovakia v. USA friendly - USA lost (yeah, yeah w/out Donovan - NOT relevant!). And, I saw both Algeria v. Egypt games - believe me, "gritty" does not BEGIN to describe the Algerian side.

Can we win? YES, if we play hard/well. WILL we win? NOT a given. BTW, the same goes for England, but they don't know that yet either from what I saw/heard/read over Xmas.

For my part, on the YA website poll, I chose 1W, 1D, 1L. Probably not in the order you might think. I hope we do well; I have to defend USA Soccer more than you do!!

Best wishes to the MNT....
Arcticrules
Sunday January 3, 2010 12:20 pm
I have to differ with the author of this article and agree with several of the posters above who put our chances of advancing much lower. I think highly of our team and Bob Bradley, but how many times have any of us prognosticating fans even watched Slovenia or Algeria play? I saw part of the Slovenia-Slovokia world cup qualifier in March and both teams were very strong and looked much better on the ball than the US. I do not think we "should" win any of these matches. However, should be bring our best game, should we find a way to score goals despite having single international-caliber forward in form, should we arrive with three of our four backline getting playing time for their clubs, my best guest (understanding that I know little about Slovenia and Algeria) is that we will still lose to England and may win one or both against Slovenia and Algeria. I am guessing Bob understands this better than anyone and will do his best to make sure his players do as well. But us fans should adjust our expectations accordingly or prepare to be frustrated.
HUle
Friday January 1, 2010 9:45 pm
robbie findley??? geoff cameron??? geoff cameron wont sniff the world cup roster nor should he... if gooch was gone which he wont be... demerit,boca, and spector... would be cbs... no comp.... then parkhurst,marshall, goodson, and conrad... would be their... parkie should be higher up then the others because he is a smarter defender but then again bob isnt smart... you think denmark was bad englnad will be worse... algeria and slovenia dont have players as taleneted as gooch dempsey or donvoan but every other field player they are better and better in on the bench... two wins thiers no chance were lucky if we get 4 points and go through on goal diff... this is the easiest group in the world cup the best we couldve wished for (actually that england couldve)thats why everyone thinks england got the easiest draw... but we will hopefu
Martell
Friday December 11, 2009 1:40 pm
We're definitely losing a lot by not having CD in the starting line-up but Bob never used him properly and whenever he started Ching next to him it offset any advantage we gained with CD. The ideal thing to do is play Dempsey and Jozy up top, Dempsey has been scoring for Fulham playing up top and he has a knack for scoring when it matters. Then in the midfield go with Edu-DM, Bradley-CM, Jones-RM and Donovan at LM as the play-maker. Jones is a versatile player, originally a striker, I've seen him play as a RM for Schalke several times. The defense is a completely different thing, but DeMerit really stepped up last year and will no doubt come through again I think.
spooky lugbolt
Thursday December 10, 2009 1:01 pm
someone referenced CD9 as the US x-factor (now non-factor). i believe this is/was spot-on. davies was the first american in recent memory to play with back to goal in a commanding fashion. he completely changed the performance of other forwards around him. who will BB put in CD9's place? dempsey may be our only option at this point and, as many pointed out, his style of play will be different than that of CD9.

losing davies was a terribly unforgiving blow to this team. the gods are cruel.
James
Wednesday December 9, 2009 3:32 pm
Robbie Findley could be our answer to the no CD9 dillema.
Jose
Tuesday December 8, 2009 10:50 am
That's my point,, USA ,the coach ,the media try to sale that USA is a super power,,or is almost there ,,,,we have no coach ,, and if you only depend on Donovan,, is like the coach never work in any tactic game ,, they going to try to stop donovan ,, and them what ,, is like argentina ,, Maradona was a good player ,,but as a coach he is not worth it he depend in Messi,,,,,,,in the gorup of USA the others 3 countries have better players than the USA ,not only that ,,they have better coach ,,that's going to make the diferent,, except Donovan ,Densey( if BB find densey's real position) and howard(lucky he is a gold keeper,he don't has to worry about playing in a diferent position) ,,please be realistic ,,
asanji
Monday December 7, 2009 7:00 pm
we american will never learn, after a stroke of luck at the conf cup now we think we are a superpower, every country including spain, brazil are givng respect to their opponents, is there anybody who doubts thier worth? but every american has seen a possible draw against england and 2wins. good coaches play it safe, "it will be a tough group but we expect to go through". those clouds at ESPN keep talking trash about stuff they have no idea about, if you listen to them you get brain washed. we are an average term on any given day and lets forget about the conf cup its past glory. but i see a punishment from the english and you could say what ever you like but the US is not ready for this cup.

we saw our last friendlies and im short of words, please i dont want to hear Dovovan wasn't there this wasn't there, they are not always going to be there and don't you think other countrries already know him (Donovan) and will work on stopping him, what if they do, then are we screwed or what. lets respect this other countries and fight for every point and not have big heads talking about the US is in an easy group. thats what killed spain, they thought it was going to be ABC with the US, lets not copy them. believe ESPN will blow out the game against the english as everybody is already going. the finals before the finals. Americans get over yourselves.
treize
Mark
Monday December 7, 2009 5:01 pm
I have no issues with the fact that BB will be the manager is South Africa. From the games I've watched, there is something missing in my opinion. We will see what we will see. We need as few distractions as possible if we want to be successful.
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