One of the most important games in United States soccer history kicks off today. In one 90-minute outing, the Americans will either make years of build-up and hype worth it, or crumble under the weight of the nation’s expectations for yet another World Cup.
The goal is simple: beat Algeria.
A win moves the USA to the next round of the tournament. A tie leaves things in the hands of others. A loss sends the Americans home to mommy.
Throughout the tournament thus far, the U.S. have had an amazing knack to give up early goals. During the first game versus England, Steven Gerrard beat the Americans for a goal in a mere four minutes. Against Slovenia, the defense was able to muster up 12 minutes of good play before giving up the goal in the 13th minute.
On the flip side, despite the almost sad way that the Americans have been giving away scores, they’ve bounced back in impressive fashion. Even though they give up goals early, the U.S. defenders have shown an ability to buckle down and play well when the situation calls for it.
Aside from the goals situation, it will also be interesting to see how Landon Donovan plays against Nadir Belhadj, arguably his strongest competition in the tournament thus far.
As the World Cup has progressed, Donovan has continuously shown himself as the Americans’ “go-to” scorer. He carried his team at the start of the second half against Slovenia in what should have been a U.S. victory, and will be key if they hope to come out with a win today.
Belhadj, a key player for Portsmouth in the English Premier League is an equally dangerous player, and will serve as a catalyst for his team if they are able to beat the Americans. He is particularly skillful when getting forward and sending in cross shots from the left corner of the field.
All in all, look for Donovan’s play to slightly edge out that of his smaller counterpart.
But of course, while the U.S. will be thinking win, fans at home should be watching the box score of the England-Slovenia game. Again, a victory will guarantee the Americans a place in the next round, however, a tie can go either way.
If the U.S. game ends in a tie, and England loses to Slovenia, the Americans advance. If the U.S.game ends in a tie, and England-Slovenia finishes in a draw AND the U.S. has more goals than England, the Americans advance. However, if England wins OR finishes in a draw but with more goals than the Americans, then England advances.
Got all that?
The point is, the U.S. needs to win and not leave their fate up to chance.
Prediction: U.S. wins 3-1