Directory Free Newsletter Contact  

USA Start out on the Right Path to South Africa as Europeans play Friendlies
By Steve MacClare
August 25, 2008           


With Team USA flying high, US soccer fans are excited!


     The football leagues in Europe are either underway or getting there, but for Team USA something far bigger begun this week, their 2010 World Cup Qualification campaign. Off the mark, it has to be said that the USA hasn’t failed to qualify since 1986.  Things were very different then.  In a move that still rankles with some American fans, the United States Soccer Federation practically ceded home advantage to Costa Rica in a vital qualifier by staging and marketing the match almost exclusively for the benefit of the expatriate population. The USA lost it and failed to qualify. Things have changed dramatically for Sam’s Army since those days, and due to the weakness of opponents in the CONCACAF region (and the expansion of the World Cup finals to 32 sides), Mexico and the USA are among the first names that fans are penning into the likely list of final qualifiers. 

     Having disposed of Barbados 9-0 on aggregate in a qualifier, the USA finds itself in a group with Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago and Cuba. Last Wednesday saw the campaign kick off with a laudable 1-0 victory in the Estadio Mateo Flores in Guatemala. A Carlos Bocanegra header in the 69th minute divided the sides. Incidentally Bocanegro now plays for Stade Rennais in France, Seb Le Toux’s old club, and before that played at Fulham, one of Kasey Keller’s old clubs. 

     The match may be better remembered for the red cards. Steve Cherundolo received his second yellow for a rugby tackle on Fredy Garcia (and not a particularly good one) before Gustavo Cabrera received a straight red just three minutes later for approaching a challenge on Eddy Lewis with his elbow raised. Lewis was gushing blood and needed stitches, although replays confirmed that it had been a clash of heads that did the damage. A home game against Trinidad and Tobago on September 10 is next up for the USA. Two sides from this group will qualify for a final group of six, from which three will go to South Africa. In Group Two, Canada were held to a 1-1 draw with Jamaica at BMO Field in Toronto. Deportiva La Coruna’s Julian de Guzman, outstanding in their recent game with Brazil, scored Canada’s goal. Elsewhere Mexico’s new boss Sven-Goran Eriksson was said to be happy with their 2-1 win over Honduras in his first competitive game. The next game sees Canada and Mexico swap opponents. 

     Meanwhile the nations of Europe prepared for their campaigns with a round of friendlies. Of the big four, Germany, Spain and France recorded victories over Belgium, Denmark and Sweden respectively. Italy astonishingly were 2-0 down to Austria in a match played in Nice. Then two own goals including a howler by Austrian keeper Ramazan Ozcan procured them a draw. Poor Ozcan had only just come on the field too. A penalty from Bastian Schweinsteiger and a goal from Marko Marin helped Germany to a 2-0 win over neighbours Belgium, France won an entertaining match 3-2 in Gothenburg, and European Champions Spain looked very impressive in their 3-0 humbling of Denmark. Liverpool’s Xabi Alonso netted twice with a goal from Barcelona’s Xavi separating them. 

     In the match of the night, Russia and the Netherlands drew 1-1 in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. A 77th minute penalty from Konstatin Zurianov prevented the Dutch getting some measure of revenge for their European Championships quarter final exit this summer. 

     On the UK front, Scotland and Northern Ireland drew 0-0 with substitute goalkeeper Alan MacGregor saving a penalty for the Scots, England drew 2-2 with the Czech Republic at Wembley, and Wales lost at home to Georgia. A last minute equalizer from Chelsea’s Joe Cole saved England, after Marek Jankulovski had put the Czechs 2-1 ahead three minutes after half time. Earlier Wes Brown with his first ever international goal and Milan Baroš with his 32nd had scored for their sides. 

     The real business starts in two weeks time with most sides having two qualifying games in September. France v Serbia, Croatia v England and Portugal v Denmark all on September 10 are the pick of the fixtures. Italy begin the defence of their World Cup on September 6th in Cyprus

     Meanwhile in Germany the Bundesliga has begun, and miraculously minnows TSG Hoffenheim find themselves top of the league after beating Energie Cottbus and Kasey Keller’s old club Borussia Mönchengladbach. We couldn’t do justice to this incredible phenomenon while covering the internationals so we’ve held over our Bundesliga season preview to next week. By which time they could be seven points ahead of Bayern Munich!


For a full list of Steve's soccer articles here

We welcome feedback and comments on Steve's articles



© 2006 All content property of European Weekly unless where otherwise accredited