The USA have become a familiar face at the World Cup in recent tournaments. Although never considered a realistic option to win the event, they have tended to be capable of causing a shock if other nations are below their best. The team’s best showing at the World Cup in modern times was their quarter final appearance at the 2o02 tournament where they lost 1-0 to eventual finalists Germany.
The United States compete in the CONCACAF qualification pool for the World Cup. They are exempt from participating in the first two rounds due to being one of the largest and more successful nations in that part of the world. Therefore, the team enter qualifying at the third round stage where they are placed in a group of four. The top two from each group advance to the final qualifying round.
The team were handed a fairly straighforward draw with Cuba, Guatemala and Trinidad and Tobago expected to pose few problems to them. The Yanks opened their account with a scrappy 1-0 away victory against Guatemala with defender Carlos Bocanegra scoring the only goal of the game. Another 1-0 away win followed, this time against Cuba with Clint Dempsey grabbing the vital goal.
A convincing 3-0 victory against Trinidad and Tobago followed before a 6-1 home thrashing of Chile confirmed the side’s place in the final qualification pool. However, there were still two matches left to play first. The States slipped up away to Trinidad and Tobago as the hosts recorded a memorable 2-1 victory. Nevertheless, they played out a comfortable 2-1 home win against Guatemala to end the group top on 15 points from a possible 18.
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The final qualification round pitted the six remaining qualifiers together in one big group. All sides were to play eachother twice and the top three would automatically qualify with fourth place entering a play off against a side in the South America qualification zone.
As usual, the States were one of the favourites along with Mexico whilst Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago didn’t look capable of causing an upset. A tricky match at home to Mexico was the team’s first match and they put in an impressive performance to win 2-0. However, two points were dropped in the away match against El Salvador. In fact, the hosts were 2-0 ahead against their larger counterparts. Nevertheless, two goals in the last 15 minutes rescued a point for the States.
A Jozy Altidore hat-trick saw USA then cruise to a 3-0 home victory over Trinidad and Tobago. The next match away to Costa Rica was not as straight forward as the team were comfortably humbled 3-1. A scrappy 2-1 home victory against Honduras was then followed by a disappointing 2-1 defeat away to Mexico that leaved the USA in the top three but not yet assured of qualification. However, three victories in a row including an impressive 3-2 away victory to Honduras booked their placed in South Africa. The Yanks played out their campaign with another recovery from 2-0 down to grab a 2-2 draw at home to Costa Rica that actually stopped their opponents from finishing in the top three.
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