Four Corners: Can the U.S. get out of the first round in the World Cup?

March 05, 2010

Motivation level high
Paul Doyle

Hartford Courant

After a sometimes lethargic performance against the Netherlands on Wednesday, the U.S. doesn't seem primed for much success in the World Cup.

And with the Americans slipping to 18th in the FIFA rankings, expectations couldn't be lower. That's why the U.S. can sneak out of the first round in South Africa.

After opening with a doozy - England on June 12 - the Americans have Slovenia and Algeria. Those are winnable games, especially for a team with a chip on its shoulder.

And make no mistake, the U.S. should feel slighted and underestimated. That's a good thing, because this is a team that needs prodding (as evidenced by their performance in Amsterdam) and motivation. If the low ranking and even lower expectations don't do it, nothing will.

Injuries could be pain
Gary R. Blockus

The Morning Call

The more appropriate question would be, "Does a sport which chases away its best athletes before puberty in favor of those who pick up foot skills more quickly deserve to make it out of the first round?" Until that changes, the U.S. will always be snickered at by world soccer powers.

The opening game against England might be scary, but the U.S., if healthy, is favored in games against Algeria and Slovenia to round out group play, so fans should be delighted at the possibility for advancement.

Of course, that's contingent upon a healthy side, and U.S. coach Bob Bradley hasn't had that with defender Oguchi Onyewu, midfielder Clint Dempsey (and now his replacement, Stuart Holden) and forward Charlie Davies all out for the foreseeable future with injuries, even though defender Steve Cherundolo is due back soon.

Could be a short trip
Barry Stavro

Los Angeles Times

Yes, but it's only a 50/50 chance.

The U.S. opens its first-round play against David Beckham's England squad on June 12th - England is one of the favorites, at about 5-1, to win the World Cup. So let's assume England makes it to the second round. That leaves the U.S. fighting with its other Group C opponents, Slovenia and Algeria; only one will advance.

Unfortunately, the U.S. showed Wednesday in its lackluster 2-1 loss against the Netherlands that it doesn't have much firepower. The Dutch easily controlled the ball for most of the match. The U.S. is 18th in the FIFA ranks, partly because of its unexpected good showing last summer in the Confederations Cup. But Slovenia (ranked 27th) and Algeria (32) are basically even with the U.S., so it could be three games and out for the U.S.

Final game will be big
Bob Foltman

Chicago Tribune

The U.S. has a good chance of advancing from group play. England is obviously the class of Group C with Slovenia as the probable minnow.

That leaves Algeria and the U.S. for the likely second spot with the final group game on June 23 between those two all-important.

A draw with England in the opener (not out of the question) and the full three points against Slovenia would put the U.S. in position of advancing with either a win or a draw against Algeria (assuming an Algerian loss to England).

That would set up a likely Round of 16 affair with Germany.

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