Sunday, December 6, 2009

Let's not kid ourselves.

In 1950, the United States beat England in the group stage of the World Cup, 1:0. Sixty years will have passed when the same two countries again face each other in the world's biggest sporting event. But anyone who seriously believes that England is seeking revenge for that defeat is probably still woozy from the aftereffects of the drugs used by the space aliens during the rectal probe.

The English squad that year was made up entirely of professional footballers from clubs that, even then, had storied histories behind them: Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, Chelsea, Portsmouth, Blackburn, the Arsenal and, of course, Liverpool. The American squad featured players from Simkins-Ford Soccer Club, Harmarville, Brookhatton, McMahon and Ponta Delgada. In their first matches, England cruised to victory over Chile, while the US got thumped by Spain. The stage was set for the game that later commentators and people trying to sell books and movies called The Miracle On Grass. It was, from the sound of it, a one-sided spectacle featuring a capable US goal keeper and an unlucky English offense.

But it was 60 years ago. The US and England have played each other a few times since, albeit never in a match with any meaning, and England has won every time. As a proud fan of the US national team, I'm thrilled to see our guys qualify in style for the great tournament. I know what they can do, and I know what they have done. And as a regular viewer of English Premier League matches, I know pretty well the capability of the English national team.

Odds are, when the teams leave the pitch at Royal Bafokeng next June, England will have won its opening match. There's a chance that the US could win the game, but it would be an upset -- not as big an upset as in 1950, but an upset nonetheless. While I hope for that, I also just pray that the US team that shows up in South Africa bears greater resemblance to the team that was there last summer than to the team that wandered through Germany in 2006.

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