USA gets dream match vs. England
June 29, 1950, in Belo Horizonte, Brazil — that was the setting the last time the United States and England met in a World Cup match. It was the first World Cup to be staged in 12 years because of World War II. The final result, one of the greatest upsets in football history, USA 1, England 0.
It was one of the many years the English believed they had the best team in the world, but failed, and while neither team advanced out of the group stage, the victory was historic enough to spurn the 2005 film "The Game of their Lives."
Now, 60 years later, the two most influential nations in the world are going to do it all over again.
The United States and England were drawn together Friday afternoon to play in Group C for the FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Let the trash talking begin. Heck, even I started about two months ago with the column "Real futball better than American football" and called the English cranky and easy to pick on. While I said it would be quite the spectacle for the United States to face England in the World Cup, nobody could have imagined it would happen in the two countries' first group game.
But here we are, roughly six months away from June 12, the date the Americans and the English meet in Rustenburg to kick off their respective World Cup campaigns. That's six long months of anticipating and analyzing every subtle detail. And believe me, the media in England will pick away at the United States; they will belittle them and poke fun at them. Of course, that's not to say our press is any better. I'm sure its will take its fair share of shots at our old friends across the pond.
Former England great Alan Shearer got things off to a brilliant start by telling BBC that the Three Lions have nothing to worry about because they are only going up against the Yanks. They better not take that approach. England is talented — no doubt about that. Wayne Rooney is the best pure goal-scoring forward in the world, Steven Gerrard is as clutch as it gets and Rio Ferdinand imposes his will at center back.
But this matchup with the United States is just too intriguing and filled with so many subplots that make it about more than just the players on the field. There is history, both political and cultural, between these two. Remember the Revolutionary War — you know, the one where the Americans won their independence? Remember the world wars where the two fought side-by-side in unison? We speak the same language and share similar beliefs on government and world affairs. In the worldwide scope of things, the United States and England are allies.
They won't be on June 12. The Americans are going to be ready. Bob Bradley is going to have his group well drilled and organized. Think Landon Donovan is chomping at the bit for a chance to beat LA Galaxy teammate David Beckham? Think Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard, American players in England's Premier League, want to make a statement? Think the Yanks want to dispel the taste of an awful 2006 campaign?
England is good, and if the United States is going to get any results from this game, it will not be easy. It may even be a stretch. But something tells me United States is going to have a little extra in store for this one. Legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson called it "that American thing" once. That underdog, backs against the wall, with a "we don't give a [expletive]" attitude was once the staple of American teams past. Bring that and England is going to be in for a real fight. Take the Yanks too lightly, and as one Rutgers coach put it when asked about others disrespecting his team, "You're gonna get punched in the face."
While the USA and England get all the attention, it should be noted that there are two other nations in Group C. Both Algeria and Slovenia are not going to be pushovers. The Algerians won a politically charged playoff over North African rivals Egypt to qualify, and the Slovenians upset Russia to earn their berth.
Yet for some reason, nobody can take their eyes off USA vs. England. I wonder why? Outside of the Super Bowl, this match could be the most watched sporting event in the United States in 2010. And wouldn't that be something?
Buckle up — this is going to be fun.
— Kyle Franko accepts praise and hate mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.