World Cup 2010: Return of the Gunfighter: England to Shoot the USA Down?

Mr XSenior Writer IJune 11, 2010

For many, the World Cup will really start when England and the USA take to the pitch in the Royal Bafokeng Stadium for the opening game in Group C. Fabio Capello's men will fancy their chances of making it to the final, and Team USA will provide the first stumbling block.

England is the overwhelming favourite to win this match. However, Bob Bradley's boys won't allow the Three Lions to run roughshod over them and are sure to provide a stern test.

Both sides are big, powerful, and physical, but the real difference is the added quality that Fabio Capello has at his disposal.

Wayne Rooney is England's obvious standout star and has the ability to make this World Cup his own. His play has reached untold levels this year and he is ably joined by top-class players like Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, and Ashley Cole.

America's best boasts are ex-Everton midfielder Landon Donovan and his old teammate Tim Howard, who is easily one of the best 'keepers in the tournament.

The real question for Bob Bradley will be how to combat this England team that scored 34 goals in 10 World Cup qualification matches?

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His first guess will be to figure out Fabio Capello's starting 11. Bradley won't be bothered on who starts in goal for England, as there is nothing between Hart, James, and Green to make any one of them stand above the other.

Defence is where he will begin his forensic analysis. All the early indications coming out of the England camp are that John Terry, Ledley King, and Ashley Cole are certain starters.

Capello will then have to decide on which Liverpool player, Jamie Carragher or Glen Johnson, will claim the right full position.

Should Johnson play, Bradley will look to exploit the gaps the marauding defender constantly leaves behind him, and if Carragher is chosen then there is an obvious lack of pace that a player like Donovan or an in-form De Marcus Beasley could expose.

Either way, right full is one of England's weakest areas, but Capello will know that too.

Another area that Bradley could attack is central midfield.

Even though Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard are world renowned stars, their partnership has always struggled to work. This is partly due to the fact that both players are similar, but moreso because neither player is capable of dictating a game like a "real" central midfielder should.

Gerrard and Lampard's best work is done in the final third of the pitch where they have both shown an incredible knack for ghosting into dangerous areas and scoring vital goals.

Move them back 40 yards and ask them to dictate the ebb and flow of a game, link defence and attack, and neither player is capable at the highest level.

Given their proclivity towards their styles of play, Michael Bradley's all-action midfield role could be where the USA gains dividends. If the Borussia Moenchengladbach powerhouse can literally get in Lampard's and Gerrard's faces to upset the vital supply line to Wayne Rooney, Team USA's chances of taking something from the game will substantially improve.

As for Wayne Rooney?

The USA does not have any players who look even half-capable of stopping the Manchester United centre forward. Therefore cutting off the supply lines to Rooney is vital.

Joe Cole and Aaron Lennon are expected to start out wide for England, so Landon Donovan and Beasley will have much to do if they are to get back and aid their team.

Donovan's role will be incredibly important, and he has a great level of discipline that Bradley may look to utilise by playing him on the right side of midfield, where he will be expected to triple job to aid his team.

Whoever starts in right midfield (Clint Dempsey is the other real option) will be expected to shut the door on Ashley Cole's forward forays, while keeping an eye on the incredibly creative Joe Cole, and will also be expected to instigate many of the USA's attacks.

Jozy Altidore, if he recovers as expected, could find himself as the lone striker against King and Terry. Physically, neither of the English players will worry the hulking ex-Hull City player, but technically, there is a huge gulf in class.

To expose them, Bob Bradley will have to rely on England's full backs moving out of position and then get his midfield to oing balls into the space left behind for Altidore to run onto.

Then in a one-on-one situation, he will have the chance to either put the ball into the box for midfielders like Donovan, Dempsey, and Beasley, or he will look to beat his opponent before striking at goal.

For England, they are a far better team than the USA, but they will have to show the patience of potential champions to beat them.

Team USA will defend deep and will not allow themselves to be exposed to the counter attacking runs of Lennon or Rooney, so England will have to build slowly and cleverly.

This is where Joe Cole will come into his own as Gerrard and Lampard will feed the ball out wide to Lennon and the recently-come free agent as quickly as possible. From there, Cole's eye for a pass could be key in setting Rooney or, God forbid, Heskey free.

If that starting tactic does not work and Bob Bradley's team is playing as instructed, then Capello is likely to look to the bench for his go-to guy, James Milner.

The Aston Villa player has shown a better knack for central midfield than Gerrard, and the Liverpool player could either be removed completely, pushed out wide, or moved in behind Rooney should Capello deem the match a must-win one.

It is a game that promises to be one of the highlights of the opening period.

Back in the 1780s, England was chased out of America. In 1950 Joe Gaetjen's scored the only goal in the USA's 1-0 win over England in the World Cup, and only a few days ago, American Congressman Anthony Weiner said, "You can't trust anyone with a British accent" as he responded to BP's attempts to shut off the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The end result was BP's shares plunging 16 percent and pension funds up and down Britain straining under extreme pressure. New British Prime Minister David Cameron was then forced to travel to the States in an effort at quelling this potential political row, and BP's shares rose by 8 percent.

But political and business tensions are still very high.

Tensions will rise again when the two teams take to the pitch in Rustenburg, and England will be favourites to win the gunfight with the boys from the West but a draw will be a result that both teams will be happy with as easier opponents are to follow.

Most Important Players:

USA : Tim Howard, Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley

England : Joe Cole, Aaron Lennon, Wayne Rooney, Ashley Cole

Important Facts:

The USA won the only previous competitive meeting between the two nations by a score of 1-0 in the 1950 World Cup. The Times famously thought the telegraph from Brazil was wrong and printed England 10-1 USA as the headline the following day.

England has won seven of their nine matches against Team USA.

Fabio Capello's side averaged over three goals per game in the qualifying campaign, more than any other nation at the World Cup.

Team USA has not kept a clean sheet in 10 games.


England 8/15

Draw 3/1

USA 6/1

This article was first published on Tiger Beer Football where Willie Gannon is the featured blogger.

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