U.S. Beats England 1-1

That headline may not be strictly accurate, but that’s how this result felt for both sides. The underdog U.S. gave up an early goal and seemed poised to get blown off the field, but then rallied (thank you, Robert Green) and held on for a hard-earned point.

England didn’t walk away empty-handed, of course, but their twin bugaboos of suspect goalkeeping and psychological frailty both contributed to the result—and imagine if Jozy Altidore had hit the net instead of the post after his brilliant run in the 67th minute. English self-loathing would have spiked to record levels. (See here as well.)

In any case, Slovenia and Algeria both looked eminently beatable, so if the U.S. and England can’t get the necessary points from them to advance, they don’t deserve to go through.

Here are a couple of interesting tidbits from some light trolling of the BBC, Guardian and Daily Mail comment boards:

 BBC Radio 5 Live’s Chris Waddle [former England international and 1993 English Footballer of the Year], 36 minutes into the game:

 “Give America credit. England just can’t get the ball. Lampard cannot get the ball out to the wingers. Maybe Capello has to say to the wide men they need to tuck in but it’s difficult because they still want the width.”

And there were more than a few like this one from Guardian Commenter ‘rufusgizmo’, after the game:

 “I don’t know what result people were expecting, but a comfortable two or three goal victory was always unlikely this evening. There is a lot of nonsense talked about the U.S. team as if they are not a credible force in football. They have been for ages. If this result had been achieved against Sweden (who are not as good as the U.S. but have drawn against England in each of the last two WCs) there would not be anywhere so much fuss.”

The U.S. a credible force for “ages”? That may be stretching it, but yes, the Yanks are probably better than most international fans give them credit for.

Finally, just for the record, we predicted the 1-1 result, and the goal for Dempsey (though we didn’t picture it happening quite like it did).

Advertisements

U.S. – England: A Compendium of Trash Talk

The Daily Show’s resident Limey, John Oliver, visited the U.S. World Cup camp the other day for what he told the AP was a “free exchange of opinions as to how the England game would go.”

His report—which of course “degenerated” quickly into taunting—airs tonight. We will certainly be tuning in.

In that light, let’s review a small sampling, a drop in the ocean of s***-talking that has been flying back-and-forth between the U.S. and England in the run-up to Saturday’s hugely-anticipated matchup.

From the The Guardian’s “Treisman Tapes”* World Cup preview feature comes this description of the U.S.:

“Dental hygiene fascists and incorrigible donners of khaki trousers who have to invent abstruse games to call themselves world champions.”

Courtesy of Deadspin commenter Hatey McLife, we have the following proposed starting lineup for England:

Goalkeeper: Pip

Defenders: Some Limey, A Toothless Wanker, That Guy Who Eats Organ Meats, Lord Palmerston

Midfielders: That Closeted Gay Guy That I Roomed With One Semester, The Cockney Rhyming Guy, Prince…You Know, the Ginger

Attacking Midfielders: Elton John, The Other Prince

Striker: A Tea Sipping Crumpet Monkey

That should keep the wickets from sticking to the pitch!

Simon Johnson of the London Evening Standard offers a totally evenhanded assessment of the game, here, in which he states that while Rio Ferdinand’s injury hurts England, 

…it would take the rest of the squad to fall victim to a swine flu epidemic … for the game to start looking like an even contest.”

(Johnson goes on, inventively, to call MLS “Minor League Soccer.”)

And it’s not only the groundlings who are involved in this “exchange of opinions,” to borrow Oliver’s phrase. No, it reaches all the way up to the highest levels of government, as the following exchange between the U.S. and England ambassadors illustrates:

From: Philip Breeden, US Embassy London

To: Martin Longden, British Embassy Washington DC


Subject: World Cup Bet



Mr. Longden,

It has not escaped our attention that a certain sporting event is fast approaching, and that our respective nations will soon be meeting on the fields of South Africa.

My Ambassador has asked me to see if your Ambassador might be interested in a small wager? We will understand if you decline, given the outcome of the last such encounter.



Sincerely,

Philip Breeden, U.S. Embassy, London

••••••••

From: Martin Longden, British Embassy Washington DC



To: Philip Breeden, US Embassy London


Subject: Re: World Cup Bet



Mr. Breeden,



Even for such an exceptionally optimistic nation as the United States, I am struck by the confidence with which your Ambassador proposes this wager. It is testament, I assume, to the generosity of your great nation – since the British Ambassador does not anticipate paying out.

Your email does not specify the exact terms of the wager. May I suggest that, in the event of an England victory, the US Ambassador agrees to entertain the British Ambassador at a steak-house of his choosing in downtown DC? And in the event that the United States is able to engineer a fortuitous win over England, then my man will entertain yours at a London pub of his choosing. Loser pays.

Your reference to a previous sporting encounter between our two countries puzzles me. Since the history of English football is long and extensive, in contradistinction to US soccer, I regret that I cannot immediately recall the encounter to which you refer. No doubt it is remembered fondly on these shores; we have quite forgotten it, however.



Are you sure you want to do this?



Yours sincerely,

Martin Longden, British Embassy, Washington DC

••••••••

From: Philip Breeden, US Embassy London

To: Martin Longden, British Embassy Washington DC



Subject: Re: World Cup Bet



Mr. Longden,



It is with great pleasure, and no small measure of anticipation, that the U.S. Ambassador accepts the terms of the wager. I am surprised, given the well known love of the British for history, that you have forgotten what happened the last time the “special relationship” was tested on the pitch. Of course, given the result, you are to be forgiven for having misplaced that particular episode in your memory banks. I refer of course to the victory of the U.S. over England in the 1950 World Cup.

It is true that our soccer (a fine English word we have kindly preserved for you) history is not as long and illustrious as yours. However, as your generals noted during WWII, we have a unique capability for quickly identifying and advancing talent.



Game on!



Sincerely, Philip Breeden

••••••••

From: Martin Longden, British Embassy Washington DC

To: Philip Breeden, US Embassy London

Subject: Re: World Cup Bet

Mr. Breeden,



Very well; it’s a bet!

Incidentally, you should know that the Ambassador takes his steak like American soccer victories—somewhat rare.



Sincerely,

Martin Longden

Those are some high-level high-jinks right there, and we approve.

As for the outcome of Saturday’s game, Oliver says a U.S. win would let loose “a complex series of emotions, from hug embarrassment to outright humiliation to deep anger…. You can’t even comprehend how bad it would be.”

So much for the stiff upper lip.

*Lord Treisman had been chairman of England’s 2018 World Cup bid until one of English tabloids caught him, in a sting, claiming that rival bidders Spain and Russia were plotting to bribe referees. He resigned and the bid is currently on shaky ground. The Guardian’s “Treisman Tapes” feature, according to our English sources, is kind of a “what we really want to say” description of each nation in the World Cup. Worth a read, here (scroll to bottom of each team capsule).

Who Should Start for the U.S. Against England?

It’s Wednesday, people—just three days out from U.S.-England, and our World Cup Fever is now officially > our Bieber Fever.

Which is saying something, because there is no cure for Bieber Fever—if you doubt it, click here (sorry about the ad at the start).

So who should the U.S. start against the Three Lions on Saturday? Here’s our take:

Goalkeeper:

Tim Howard. Uh, yep.

Defenders:

Steve Cherundolo. In better form than Spector right now; poised veteran.

Jay DeMerit. We actually think he matches up well with Wayne Rooney, on a physical level, anyway. Athletic scrapper.

Oguchi Onyewu. We’re not sure he’s 100% yet, but we don’t want to face England with Clarence Goodson in the heart of the defense.

Carlos Bocanegra. Best left back option.

Outlook: All kinds of problems here. Not a particularly speedy group, and Onyewu is still rounding into form. Could Bradley throw—gulp—Jonathan Bornstein, his fastest defender, out there for more cover against ultra-quick England winger Aaron Lennon?

/Shudders.

Midfielders:

Clint Dempsey. Most reliable big-game player on the team, he will bring it.

Michael Bradley. Ball-winner, attack-squelcher, and he can get forward and score goals. Has a tendency to overheat and draw cards, though.

Maurice Edu. Many of the same qualities as Bradley but more skilled and a better passer.

Landon Donovan. They’ve heard of him in England.

Outlook: We like this group; every player is proven at the highest level. Bradley has shown a preference for the Ricardo Clark-Michael Bradley pairing in the middle, and may well go with that versus England, but we think Edu is a better option: He breaks up attacks just as well, and is a better passer than Clark. But as Soccer America’s Ridge Mahoney argues here, in detail, Clark is not without a number of underappreciated attributes.

Strikers:

Jozy Altidore. Latest reports have him on target to recover in time from his recent ankle sprainHe’s a trial for any defender.

Robbie Findley. We were his biggest doubters two weeks ago, and yet now we think he’s ready. (We are more fickle than a restless sea.) Findley flubbed two clear chances in the tuneup against Australia this past Saturday, but that just means he’ll collect himself and put them away in the next game, right? Right.

Outlook: Charlie Davies will be hugely missed, obviously. The crop of U.S. forwards in South Africa is strikingly inexperienced (and the most blooded of the group, Altidore, is only 20 years old) and facing England in a World Cup opener is a baptism by fire, if not napalm.

On the other hand, Findley and especially Edson Buddle looked like they were playing with the house’s money on Saturday against Australia: Taking guys on, full of confidence, and in Buddle’s case, bagging two goals. They have nothing to lose, and seem fired up to just play loose and go for it.

Here’s another option: Bradley starts the in-form Buddle alongside the speedy Findley, thereby giving him a hot goal-scorer, and a speedster to keep England’s backline on notice—something he might want from the get-go in this high-pressure affair.

Then he has the option of bringing on The Handful that Is Jozy Altidore against a fatigued England backline in the second half. Hmmmm.

Anyway, that’s just us spitballing. What’s your ideal lineup to face England? Let us know in the comments.

Best XI Thoughts on the Draw

Eyes on the prize.

11. France qualifies in historically dubious fashion, then lands in one of the easiest groups in the tournament, with South Africa, Mexico, and Uruguay. Proof that the draw is not rigged.

10. Group B is under-the-radar difficult: Nigeria will be a handful for anyone and is playing on its home continent; South Korea reached the semifinals in 2002, and tied France and beat Togo in ’06 (yet didn’t advance); Greece won Euro 2004; and Argentina is Argentina….even with Diego at the helm.

9. The U.S. got the best draw it’s ever received, no doubt, but opening with England makes it a little trickier. If they fail to get a result of some kind against the Three Lions, the pressure will be on.

8. The D stands for Damn Difficult, if not Death. All four teams in Group D believe, rightly, that they are capable of advancing. Australia was frankly robbed in 2006, by a dubious late penalty for eventual champs Italy in the Round of 16, and they are primed to compete; Ghana, led by Chelsea’s Michael Essien, is a team no one wants to face, and Serbia, with former U.S. youth-international centerback Neven Subotic, topped its group in Euro qualifying.

7. The Netherlands needs to watch its back in Group E. We think Holland is capable of great things in this Cup–as they seem to be in every World Cup. But this time out, they have a relatively youthful team, which may work in their favor, to avoid the yips their more experienced players seem to get on the world stage. But with Japan, Cameroon, and Denmark–you saw the way the Danes dominated the U.S. in a friendly last month?–the road out of group play is studded with obstacles.

6. Italy has a cakewalk to the Round of 16. The defending world champs will top Group F, the easiest group in the tournament. Former D.C. United defender Ryan Nelson is a fine player, but New Zealand’s world class begins and ends with him. Ditto Slovakia and Liverpool’s Martin Skertl. Paraguay is always competitive in the World Cup. They’ll join the Azzurri in the next round.

5. Kim Jong -Il can not be pleased with N Korea’s draw. Holy Military Demarcation Line (Google it)! North Korea doesn’t qualify for a World Cup for 44 years, and this is the group they get? Brazil, Portugal, and Ivory Coast. But wait, back in 1966, North Korea upset Italy 1-0 (really, they did) and then took a 3-0 lead on Portugal in the quarterfinals before falling 5-3. That said, they have no shot here. Ivory Coast and Drogba, who was an absolute beast at Germany ’06, will follow Brazil into the Round of 16.

4. Honduras needs to represent in Group H. They have a number of players playing in Europe, they’re bound to be underestimated, and they can play–2010 is the time for Los Catrachos to show the world there’s more to CONCACAF than the U.S. and Mexico. Spain will win this group, but the second spot is up for grabs between Chile, Switzerland and our southern neighbors.

3. Will Galaxy teammates Donovan and Beckham face each other in a World Cup game? It could happen, if both stay healthy and Golden Balls performs for AC Milan this spring.

2. The best group-play games are: U.S. vs England, Argentina vs Nigeria, June 12; Netherlands vs Denmark, June 14; all Group D games between June 13 and June 23–seriously, Germany vs Australia, Serbia vs Ghana …  Group D has a great mix of geography and talent; Brazil vs Ivory Coast, June 20; Brazil vs Portugal, June 25. Will the ref be able to speak Portugese?

1. U.S. fans in SA can chant “1950! 1950!” during that opening game: We know that Joe Gaetjens scored the goal in that historic upset, but can you see it here? We can’t, exactly. Let us know in the comments if you can.