The USA look set to book their place in South Africa for the 2010 world cup with relative ease. They progressed easily into the final hexagonal stage of qualifying (complicated but it works). They were forced to play a rather easy qualifier against Barbados which they won 9-0 on aggregate which led them into the first group stage against Trinidad and Tobago, Guatemala and Cuba. In the first group they started off with two 1-0 away wins against Guatemala and Cuba respectively, followed up with a 3-0 home win against Trinidad and Tobago. A 6-1 home thrashing of Cuba ensured they qualified with 2 games to spare, the first loss of the campaign came against Trinidad and Tobago, a 2-1 away defeat which ensured Trinidad and Tobago qualified along with the USA. The final game was a game with nothing riding on and the USA prevailed 2-0 at home to Guatemala.
So after relative ease and not breaking to much sweat the USA entered the final group. 6 teams, along with Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Trinidad and Tobago and Costa Rica. So far the USA have been very impressive, playing some very attractive football and showing a real desire and commitment. For these US players you can see that every time they play they are proud to be representing their country. They really enjoy football (or soccer), and play with a real energy.
At the half way stage of the group they lie in 2nd place, 2 points behind Costa Rica and 3 clear of Honduras, but more importantly they lie 4 clear of the dangerous if not disarrayed Mexico ,with an away game against the Mexicans up next. Undoubtedly the result of their qualifying was the 2-0 victory over Mexico in which they controlled the game from start to finsh and 2 goals from the highly impressive Michael Bradley sealed a victory, which many US fans will savour for a long time.
Jozey Altidore has been somewhat of a revelation for the States. Although he moved to Villareal last summer for $7million, not many people have been able to see what he is capable of. A big strong, pacey forward who can get a goal, he leads the line very well, and with a bit of experience he could be a great player in years to come. He has been the leading scorer for the states with 5 goals in qualifying. Some people raise eyebrows about the USA and their capabilities of competing at the top level of football. A look through their team would convince people that although the game is not big in the USA it certainly has its talents across the pond. Clint Dempsey, Onyewu, Donovan, Altidore, DeMerit, Bocanegra, Howard, Beasley and Freddy Adu have all played in Europe’s top leagues. There is a lot of pedigree in the team and many teams underestimate what the USA can do.
The Confederations cup run that they have gone on is quite amazing. The performance against Spain was classic underdog stuff. David against Goliath, a miss match. However a 2-0 win in a FIFA recognised competition, against the best team in Europe, if not the world got them noticed. It showed people how well the USA can play football. It was such a performance and such a defining moment in the history of US football that it made front page news on the New York Times. At the heart of that performance was Landon Donovan. A player who is dreadfully out of place in the MLS. He could quite easily play in the Premiership, La Liga or Serie A. A player with real quality and creativity, he controlled the game against Spain and the Mexicans could not contain him in the qualifiers.
The USA are in a great position to qualify, they have performed admirably so far, doing enough to get themselves into the qualification places. Expectation will now be raised due to the Confederations cup progress, many will expect to see the USA succumb to the pressure and faulter, but they have many players in the team who can cope with the pressure. They should make it to South Africa in 2010 and with a good draw they could progress quite far. The biggest thing to come from the recent success is the profile of football being raised in the USA. That’s a great thing for the players, who now feel as thought when they play the country is willing them on, not just checking on their progress fleetingly. It’s a bad thing for the rest of the world. If the USA took football as seriously as they do basketball, with a country their size, they could easily win the World cup in 2018. But fully expect to see them shake a few teams up in 2010.