United States: No DramaBy: Juan Mesa
HOW DID THEY GET HERE: Team USA finished first in the final round of the CONCACAF qualification. Jurgen Klinsmann’s team had a solid home performance by winning all games—including the usual “Dos a Cero” against Mexico—without receiving any goals. As visitors, the Americans just lost against Honduras and Costa Rica while grabbing a 0-0 in Azteca Stadium. They were so comfortable in their own skin that they could even give Mexico a hand to get their ticket to Brazil when they beat Panama 3-2 in the final game.
BIGGEST STRENGTH: They possess an off-the-field quality: they’re a united team, protected by the communion of executives, sponsors, coaches and a fast-growing and organized fan base. This may be connected to the fact that they’re a drama-free team (something invaluable in the soccer world), perhaps because of the relatively low pressure they have on their shoulders. On top of it, Klinsmann has provided a new set of tactical dynamics, which has given the team a new face.
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: The US roster is not a scary one. The main stars are Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, none of which would be included on a top 40 players of the world list. The defense is weak in set pieces, and the team as a whole has exhibited naïveté when playing against powerhouses.
WORLD CUP CHANCES: The USMNT had the worst of lucks in the draw: Group G also includes Germany, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and Ghana. The first game against the West African team brings the challenge of getting revenge for the 2010 elimination in overtime during the round of 16. And if they get the three points in that match, they could aim for a couple of draws or a win against Portugal—something they did in Korea/Japan—to move on to the next round.
FUN FACT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Brazil brings good memories to the US. In 1950, a squad made of semiprofessional players shocked the world by beating England 1-0 in Belo Horizonte during the group stage. Loses against Spain and Chile sent the team back home, but the feat gave writer Geoffrey Douglas a reason to write The Game of Their Lives, a book that was later adapted into a movie.
IF THEY WERE A SONG, IT WOULD BE: Lana del Rey’s “National Anthem” because there is always a reason to be proud of being an American.